Remember, foods containing gluten are not an accident of nature, and humans have been eating wheat for millions of years for good reason. Let’s explore the compelling modern science supporting it’s many unsung health benefits.
– Dr. John Douillard
When you see a book title like this, after ALL the discussion around wheat and gluten being a problem, it kind of makes you want to throw up your hands and just not pay attention to anything coming out of the health and nutrition field, right?
But, I promise that the content of this book is actually an extension of what most functional and holistic health practitioners already know and understand:
Your symptoms are directly related to the health of your body – not what’s irritating it.
Allergies? Don’t blame the outdoors, look at the health of your immune system and gut.
Reflux? Don’t blame the acid, look at the health of your digestion.
Don’t feel well eating wheat? Don’t blame gluten, look at the health of your gut and lymphatic system.
Basically, look at your ability to digest and detoxify.
Isn’t Gluten Bad For You?
Before you say gluten itself is damaging, what’s so fascinating about the research on this is that gluten, like many other hard-to-digest proteins, is actually quite beneficial to our gut and our immune systems….like exercise is to our muscles and cardiovascular system.
IF….the gluten is NOT also found in modern refined, processed foods that are pesticide-laden, genetically modified, bleached, stripped of the germ and full of unhealthy oils.
Here’s what some of the studies show (There are far too many to cite here, I highly recommend you check out the book for all the research):
Wheat consumption REDUCES the risk for:
- Metabolic Syndrome (obesity, belly fat, high cholesterol, etc) – reduced by 38%
- Type 2 Diabetes and Elevated Blood Sugar
- Breast Cancer
Wheat consumption PROMOTES:
- Overall longevity
- Gut immunity
- Increased levels of healthy gut bacteria
- A healthy gut lining
- Weight loss
Wheat is actually an immune stimulator and food for good bacteria.
But what about modern wheat? Isn’t it different? – Not really. Ancient wheat in many cases was higher in gluten and also hybridized. The issue is not the modern gluten molecule, it’s modern processing and the addition of harmful chemicals, sugars, additives and unhealthy fats.
Another quote from the author:
I want to be clear that I am not advocating eating bucketloads of wheat all of the time. Many people do feel better without it, and it is completely valid to choose to avoid gluten. What I am saying is that with the right kind, in the right amount, at the right time, and with strong digestion, wheat, like all foods, has a purpose with clear benefits. – Dr. John Douillard
What Went Wrong:
What the author says is that the primary problem – the thing that had made it difficult for many of us to tolerate wheat – lies in weak digestion and a clogged lymphatic system.
Your lymphatic system is the LARGEST circulatory system in the body (bigger than the circulatory system for blood).
Your lymph is part of your digestive system, carrying certain nutrients throughout the body. It’s also part of the elimination and detoxification process, a drainage system carrying wastes and toxins to where they need to go for safety.
The problem is two-fold:
- When our digestive systems don’t properly break down wheat (both in the stomach and by healthy gut bacteria in the intestines), the undigested gluten makes its way into our lymphatic system.
- If our lymphatic systems are sluggish and backed up, gluten becomes a problem.
What causes this change in digestive and detox capacity?
- Consumption of refined wheat every day at every meal instead of seasonally (it’s a fall crop)
- Consumption of refined wheat laced with lots pesticides and other harmful additives
- Consumption of all the other types of processed foods, sugars and fats
- Exposure to an immense amount of toxins and pollutants in food, water and environment
- Being overly stressed, which compromises our ability to digest and detoxify
- Not getting enough sleep
- Lack of exercise. I talk about how to get your lymphatic system moving here.
- Medications like proton pump inhibitors (reflux meds) and other drugs that effect digestion or cause dry mouth (gluten digestion begins in the mouth).
- Insufficient bile production and gall bladder removal
This is a major reason why problems with digestion and gluten are so recent. Most of our parents, grandparents and beyond didn’t have a problem with it.
Don’t Just Eliminate Foods….Also Heal
The typical strategy for all kinds of digestive problems and food sensitivities is to simply avoid the food. The deeper you go on your healing journey, the more foods you discover need to be avoided. Now what?
The point that the author makes throughout the book is that someone with compromised digestion and detoxification pathways who removes the offending foods but doesn’t then seek to heal their system is missing the point.
We often blame the food and forget the fact that we are actually designed to thrive off a very varied diet that includes whole grains, animal proteins, vegetables and fruits. Most of us grew up being able to tolerate everything.
When there’s a breakdown in our ability to tolerate foods, we have to examine the cause of that breakdown, not just avoid the foods.
Yes, stop eating wheat if it makes you feel bad and most certainly remove processed foods from your diet, but once you’ve done that you then have to do the work of repairing your gut and unclogging the lymphatic system.
Then, you have a body that can tolerate wheat (healthy forms, which I’ll get to) and other foods you may have had to avoid.
Even if you still choose not to eat it, just knowing your body CAN tolerate it is a sign of health.
It kind of changes the goal here, right?
Don’t just eliminate. Sure that will reduce symptoms, but it doesn’t fix the underlying problem: your ability to properly digest and detoxify.
How To Eat Wheat:
Once our digestive system is stronger, the wheat you eat is a healthy variety, the bread is not processed, and the body’s lymphatic channels are decongested, you will gain significant digestive wheat-eating strength. – Dr. John Douillard
It used to take 3 days to bake bread, now it takes 2 hours. Things are different now, but it’s also easier than ever to source quality ingredients to make your own healthy bread or find places that sell it.
Here it is in a nutshell:
- Eat sprouted and fermented bread (this predigests the proteins and makes the bread more nutritious) – health food stores sell all kinds of sprouted grain flours for you to make bread. You can also buy a packet of sourdough starter and make sourdough bread using the sprouted flours of your choice. Or search online and you will find many companies who ship this type of bread directly to you.
- When you do eat bread, it’s a small part of any meal – the traditional dinner roll is a good example.
- Fall and winter is the time when we’ve traditionally eaten wheat – wheat is a seasonal food. Fall is when grains are ready for harvesting. It’s also the time of year where our digestion is strongest.
While you don’t have to avoid it entirely other months of the year, the author is suggesting that historically, we ate seasonally and wheat was no different.
A Note to Celiacs and Die Hard Gluten-Free-ers:
If you have celiac disease, you should never eat gluten. Period.
There are also non-celiac, gluten sensitive folks who may never feel great eating wheat. The key is to test wheat using the guidelines above, not just any refined product. Then eventually, sporadic exposure to more refined products may not cause a problem.
For others, if you can’t imagine eating gluten (EVER), that’s fine, the key here is to understand that going gluten free was only the first step. And, consuming lots of gluten free flours isn’t ideal either.
In fact, the author presents research on the difference in gut health when someone switches to a grain free diet – their gut immunity and diversity/strength of intestinal bacteria declines greatly. There are specific benefits to consuming whole grains, while rice and nut flours just don’t provide that.
Takeaway: You Are Resilient
If you were able to tolerate gluten for most of the early part of your life and your symptoms only surfaced in your mid to late 20s or beyond, something CHANGED.
Now, you can’t tolerate wheat, so you stop. Fine. Even if you never go back, there’s more work to do to ensure that your health and vitality is actually IMPROVING.
The fact that your ability to digest gluten has been compromised is a sign of unhealthy alterations in your digestive tract and lymphatic system.
I love this because it reminds us that our bodies are naturally resilient.
We are not designed to live in a bubble and obsess over every darn thing we put in our mouths. While it’s fine to do that during a process of healing, our goal is to get to a point where we can indulge when we want, travel without stressing about food options and feel comfortable letting our kids eat birthday cake.
I’m a big fan of the 80/20 rule (mostly because that’s how I stay sane) and based on this research the 20%, if it includes properly prepared bread and grains, might even boost our immune systems and make us stronger. And I like that.
Want to learn more?: This was a brief synopsis of the book. I highly recommend the book if you are interested in this topic and I am always available by email if you would like to discuss HOW to improve digestion and lymphatic function for any specific health goal you have.