Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, barley, and spelt, and is a contaminant in most oats as they are often shipped or processed with wheat. Gluten-free diets are becoming well-known now, and many scientific studies are showing that gluten intolerance is much more common than previously suspected.
In my experience, about 70% of people feel better off of wheat. These improvements can be in a wide variety of areas, including all areas of digestive and eliminative health and comfort, but also, depression, sinus, sleep, acne, arthritis, fatigue, headaches, autoimmune disorders, neurological concerns, and much more.
Experimenting with a wheat -free, or gluten-free, or even GRAIN-FREE diet is something I encourage everyone to do for several months, at least.
Secondly, let’s talk grains, in general.
Grains are the seeds of plants. Rice, corn, and all the gluten grains come from grass. Yes, they are grass seed! Other grains are the seeds of non-grass plants such as small shrubs or vines. Buckwheat, amaranth and quinoa are examples of these.
And then there are all the seeds and nuts such as almonds, pine nuts and pistachios, only a few of which are actually nuts, as most are really seeds. Finally, beans are the seeds of vegetables.
ALL SEEDS (and therefore grains) are difficult to digest, as they contain harsh exterior coatings to protect themselves from mold, rot, and from being eaten. And they contain Phytic Acid, an anti-nutrient that actually pulls out minerals from your body.
Eating seeds, beans and grains without first soaking them puts a digestive strain on the stomach and gut. These foods will not fully break down, and their starchy remnants ferment, causing gas, bloating, and a home for candida yeast and bacteria.
Soaking and fermenting these begins the digestive process by partially breaking down the exterior coating and some of the cellulose.
The second problem with all seeds is the Phytic Acid they contain. Phytic Acid is known as an anti-nutrient, because it blocks us from obtaining nutrients in the food, especially the minerals. For anyone eating lots of grains, seeds or beans, you may be creating calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc deficiencies. (And yes, when I say grains, I mean cereal, bread, pasta, rice, tortillas, beans and all those other common foods).
Grains contain other anti-nutrients such as tannins which irritate the lining of the intestine, and complex proteins that are difficult to break down.
So, we want to eat only what we can digest. Sounds like a good basic rule, yes?
Soaking grains, oats, and beans at room temperature for 12 to 24 hours IN A SLIGHTLY ACID MEDIUM, and then draining them, helps enormously. Do this by adding a tablespoon of vinegar, whey (the liquid off your yogurt), or lemon juice to your soaking water (preferably filtered water). Gluten containing grains would be even better if left to sprout after their initial soaking, and then cooking them. Seeds should also be soaked in water with some salt added, for 4 to 24 hours. Once soaked, they will only keep for 2 days in the refrigerator, or, you can dehydrate them at the lowest temperature in your oven, and they will keep for months.
You can also buy Sprouted Grain breads in the freezers of any health food store. Well known brands are Ezekiel Bread, Manna Bread and Alvarado Street Bakery. So far, no one has made a Sprouted Grain cereal that I know of.
For more info on easy and exact ways to soak and use nuts, seeds and grains, see our favorite book, Sally Fallon’s “Nourishing Traditions”.
PS. You can add digestive enzymes to your meals to help break starch down. There are several that are specially made for starch digestion.