Tuesday, February 21, 2012

stop eating wheat? how about Stop Eating Modern Wheat!

"The Bible says, "Give us this day our daily bread." Eating bread is nearly a religious commandment. But the ancient wheat of our ancestors is something modern humans almost never eat.
Canada's first commercially viable wheat
from 1909 not ancient, but heritage.
Instead, we eat dwarf wheat, the product of genetic manipulation and hybridization that created short, stubby, hardy, high-yielding wheat plants with much higher amounts of starch and gluten and many more chromosomes coding for all sorts of new odd proteins. The man who engineered this modern wheat won the Nobel Prize -- it promised to feed millions of starving around the world. Well, it has, and it has made them fat and sick." 
  An excerpt from Mark Hyman's article in the Huffington Post.

The entire article can be accessed here.  This article by Dr. Hyman closely mirrors findings as outlined in Dr. Davis' book Wheat Belly that I am currently re-reading.  I only find it troubling that not enough emphasis is placed on the ancient varieties of wheat vs. modern. Dr. Hyman has spelled it out more clearly and I appreciate that.

Here's my view on the subject from a post I did a few weeks ago. 


  1. thanks for posting this John. It is an interesting discussion. My question, that I don't seem to find a definitive answer for, is if wheat is organic how can it be genetically modified ? hybridized yes but genetically modified ?????

  2. You are absolutely correct Fran. There is no GMO product that I know of that is allowed in Organic Production. Modern wheat varieties, up to this point have not been Genetically Modified. Yet. They will soon though as corn and Soy have already undergone that transition along with several other crops.

    Modern wheat has been genetically altered though through intensive, chemical hybridization. In the older days of wheat breeding it was simply a natural hybridization that farmers practiced on their own out in the fields. Of course, the older wheats are much more genetically diverse and will adjust to their growing conditions in relatively few generations. Farmers are able to select quality heads of wheat from their fields and save those seeds to improve the crop. Today's wheat does not have that ability. They are a genetic monoculture so to speak...no one wheat plant is different from another...clones.

  3. I'll try to find the time to do an article on modern wheat breeding practices sometime soon for you Fran. You might be surprised at some of the practices employed.

  4. Hi John,
    Thanks so much for posting this and encouraging alternate perspectives. My comments aren't meant to start an argument on this topic but rather to participate in the discussion that you have started. These are my opinions based on MY experience and learning so I'm not attempting to be *right or wrong* for the whole world but rather for me and my health (and of course my family).

    As mentioned on twitter, I currently avoid ALL grains. This has been a recent change spurred by much reading on alternate eating lifestyles as a way to improve my health. I won't go into specifics about my medical conditions. I had already been trying to avoid processed food where possible and consumed wheat regularly. I made my own bread. Long story short, I eventually settled on trying the Paleo approach (no sugar, no grains, no legumes, no corn, no refined oils like canola or sunflower, no soy, and no dairy although I've not completely cut this out) as well as lots of pastured meat. Going ZERO GRAINS messed with my mind as I come from a farming background. My dad is a recently retired grain farmer and his dad homesteaded. I have a single strand of wheat tattooed on my right leg - this is how much wheat and all it stood for (or what I thought it stood for) resonated with me. So, I certainly didn't make this decision lightly and actually fully expected it to be a farce. Now that I think of it, I'm fairly certain I decided to try this approach to refute it - BIG TIME.

    Now almost 4 months later of going grain free, I am off one of my meds for one of my chronic conditions (cardiovascular) and no longer require contant visits to the chiropractor, physio, and massage therapist for another. I also am not constantly hungry. I was stunned at the results and again, this is the short version. I also quite simply FEEL better. I can tell right away when I've eaten conventional meat (read "CRAP") that has been extensively and solely grain fed.

    With this significant improvement in my health and relationship to food (I also shop for food differently) I'm not motivated to add grains back to my diet. The initial decision was a tough one, but staying away from them has been an easy decision ... when I'm in my own kitchen and have control over meal prep. It's not easy being grain free in a wheat and grain-centric society when I'm not in my own kitchen :(

    I've had numerous conversations with my dad about the changes wheat has undergone and I treated lightly during these discussions. After all, this is his livelihood that I was essentially questioning ... Indirectly. He has been surprisingly open to the discussions. I even bought him the Wheat Belly book which he has told me he has read. I've read Wheat Belly and am currently reading Sweet Poison by David Gillespie. I also have The Perfect Health Diet book on the way (diet noun not diet verb, for my purposes). I am really trying hard to make informed choices and I have found that many of my previous assumptions about food and eating have been questioned and challenged and I will continue to do so even with my current approach.

    Thanks for listening!

    1. No problem Cindy. Love that you chose to comment.

      While I believe that you have gone somewhat to the extreme...it is working for you and your beliefs. There is no right or wrong there that's for sure.

      Our family, mostly my wife Cindy, have done research enough on the dietary benefits of heritage grains that we choose to eat them. I too have conquered my chronic blood pressure problem with the inclusion of ancient and heritage grains in my diet...especially flax.

      Let us not forget that the oldest preserved human yet found (from the bronze age) had ancient grain in his gut (einkorn). I am referring to Otzi http://www.iceman.it/en/economy

      Also, I am a keen observer of nature. Bears and pigs who share not dissimilar digestive systems from our own are both hearty consumers of grains in the wild.

      My contention is that there is plenty of goodness in grain consumption...just not modern varieties of grains. Not trying to change your mind...just not agreeing either. LOL

    2. Thanks for your time and effort to educate us, John. I would like to learn more about ancient / heritage grains even though at the moment I am not brave enough to reintroduce grains of any kind into my diet. The symptoms I experience are too nasty :(. Do you have recommendations for books, websites, etc? I'm a reader ... I also think it would be helpful to chat with you in person to learn more about your health journey.
      Thanks again!

    3. Hi Cindy!.Would love to have a chat w/you regarding the amazing results you have had going off modern wheat! I have email if you wish...jeannie@windowjeannie.com or ph. 780-457-7109

  5. Thanks for posting this! I have a friend who's been asking about "The Wheat Belly" and gluten, etc. I've directed her to some of the articles you've posted, as well as recommended she stop by to see you at the market.

  6. No worries Cindy...would be happy to chat with you anytime. We are, of course, at market every Saturday at Old Strathcona. I am also attending a few local events coming up and would love to chat more.

    I will plan to write more on this subject soon. Cindy has file folders full of stuff we've printed off over the years. We rely mostly on independent studies...mostly universities I suppose. Mainstream books and magazines are there to sell books and magazines. They hardly ever tell the whole story in complete detail. "Wheat Belly" readers mostly miss the point of the book because he isn't clear throughout the entire book that he is talking about modern wheat. There are several pages that go into detail about the heritage species, but it is easy for people to gloss over those important details and skip to the big picture. It's a good book, but doesn't do a good job on providing a clear picture. Having said that, there have been several people per week that come up to our booth and excitedly point out that they have been reading and wanted to find heritage wheat products! They got the message despite efforts of the author to sensationalize the problem.

    The one thing that is obvious to me. A Certified Organic diet that is mostly made up of vegetables with the odd supplementation of whole dairy and grains and fruits is the diet that will provide the best health overall. When any one of those things goes out of balance health suffers. The other thing that's obvious to me I suppose is that everybody is different and has different balances.

  7. Grain is a normal and healthy part of diets unless you have a specific problem. Otherwise, don't tell me that I need to be like someone who has a problem if I don't. My daughter cannot eat grain but I can. I'm in great health and she is too since moderating her diet.

  8. You're absolutely right Juicer...I get a little angry though with our modern food production and processing companies who are apparently behind the cause of the medical conditions that your daughter now has to deal with (of course that isn't an absolute because I don't know what your daughter has for a condition). So many of our illnesses today appear to be direct consequences of supposedly "safe" foods in our diet. I hate hearing that your daughter has a food-related condition...nobody should need to deal with that sort of stuff.

  9. Late post, but just saw this - I have wheat sensitivity (digestion, poor energy, joint pain, etc. when I eat it). I went to central Africa last August, and due to more severe food allergies and intolerances, wound up eating at least a couple of pieces of bread a day to stay reasonably full - enough to normally cause me symptoms. I had NO symptoms. Felt great the entire trip and my poor knees (normally a significant problem for me) had no trouble at all with my getting up and down from the high floor of the safari truck, standing in a moving vehicle, etc.). I asked our guide about the wheat they used, and on the way into one of the towns located between the big animal parks, he pointed to a field - "That is the wheat we grow here. I am told it is very different from your American wheat." And it was - short, brown, thick stalks with fewer, browner grains on the end. I am completely convinced (though only have my anecdotal evidence) that I was not allergic to nor sensitive to any of the proteins in that particular wheat. Bummer it cannot be imported - apparently it is often attacked by a fungus that would be devastating if accidentally released on modern crops - because I would LOVE to be able to bake with it.

  10. Just a short note. i have recently read the book "Wheat Belly". I find it very clear from the start that he is talking about modern wheat. he stresses this point in the beginning. I did not gloss over the details of the heritage grains. This is what caught my attention since I grind my own flour and bake my own bread.