An extremely common gut irritant is wheat, or more specifically gliadin, the name for wheat gluten, found in modern wheat.
Back in the 1970s, Curtis Dohan, a psychiatrist, was publishing cases of people with schizophrenia recovering on a wheat-free diet. Wheat can also exacerbate symptoms of ADHD and autism. This link with mental health problems led to the discovery that modern wheat, in its digestion, generates peptides (combinations of amino acids a bit shorter than a protein) that mimic opioids (heroin and morphine are opioids) called gluteomorphins that occupy the same receptors in the brain as heroin. Gluteomorphins are commonly found in the urine of children diagnosed with autism.
The effect of these gluteomorphins, created when you digest modern wheat, is that you want more. Wheat literally becomes addictive. Combined with the sugar load created by yeast-activated bakery products, and the subsequent blood sugar low, which stimulates appetite, modern wheat is literally an appetite stimulant, making you want to eat more.
This is, of course, great news for the food industry and one of the reasons why wheat-eating nations have a big problem with ever-increasing belly fat. There’s a good book, Wheat Belly by William Davis, which makes the argument as to why our modern day obsession with wheat is driving abdominal weight gain, although he fails to differentiate between the effects of modern wheat and ancient wheat such as khorosan. When you gain abdominal fat, known as visceral fat, it triggers, or is part of the body’s inflammatory response mechanism. This, in turn, makes you both more likely to become intolerant or allergic, and to develop inflammatory symptoms, the classics being headaches, eczema or dermatitis, asthma, irritable bowel diseases such as Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis, rhinitis, arthritis and just about any ‘itis’. While the general view is that ‘gluten’ is the culprit this simplistic opinion doesn’t take into account a series of experiments carried out on an ancient khorasan wheat. Technically it does contain gluten proteins and, as such, should promote inflammation. However, it doesn’t. In numerous studies it does the opposite.
A randomised double-blind study was published on people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), carried out by researchers at the University of Florence in Italy. The participants were given foods (bread, pasta, biscuits, and crackers) made from either modern wheat or Kamut wheat. They didn’t know what kind of food they were eating. During the modern wheat weeks they had no improvement, and continued to suffer from abdominal pain, bloating, tiredness and irregular and unhealthy bowel movements. However, when they were unknowingly eating khorosan wheat, everything improved. They reported significantly less bloating, abdominal pain, irregularity and tiredness, with a much higher overall measure of quality of life.
Also, convincingly, markers of inflammation in the blood, known as pro-inflammatory cytokines (IL-6, IL-7, INFgamma, MCP-1, VEGF), which are usually raised in people with IBS, all reduced. This is exactly the opposite of what one would expect with conventional wheat, high in gluten proteins. This effect as seen in blood markers has been found in every human trial using Kamut khorosan, including in people with cardiovascular disease, diabetes and fatty liver disease.
Your homework this week is to go wheat gluten-free, perhaps having oat cakes and whole rye bread, such as Scandivanian style volkenbrot instead. If that makes a difference to how you feel, and you can get hold of some khorosan flour or bread, often sold under the Kamut brand, see how you feel on this ancient grain even though it contains gluten.