The underrated dangers of wheat

Courtesy of MCT

The amber waves of grain flow majestically across the fields of the United States and are processed into wheat, thrown onto the food plate of Americans everywhere.  Many of us eat our beloved staple crop without hesitation, unaware of the harmful implications that wheat has towards our body.

I discovered only this year that wheat has led toward a large amount of discomfort in my life. I was diagnosed with a wheat allergy and advised to watch what I eat. Being that wheat has always been an average part of my diet, I was quite surprised.

One in 133 Americans has a gluten intolerance, and while symptoms crossover between the labels of wheat allergy, wheat intolerance and celiac disease, leading it to be difficult to exactly pinpoint what one may have at times, one thing is certain. The absence of wheat products helps everything. In taking wheat out of my diet, I’ve noticed my life change drastically as well.

Things that I felt were “normal” to my everyday life ceased to exist. My chronic lethargy, constant stomach pains and looming depression were originally attained to an umbrella term of irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS. This diagnosis is common for many like me, but upon eating less wheat products, all of my negative symptoms were a thing of the past and my body feels the best it ever has.

However, avoiding wheat is not so simple. Unbeknownst to many, wheat or gluten and products go under a wide variety of names. For celiacs, some have to avoid common ingredients such as ascorbic acid, maltodextrin and glucose, as these can sometimes be processed by chemicals which contain gluten. Wheat is also a common product in binders and sweeteners in products within the United States, going under names such as “malt” or “barley malt.” Products that list these ingredients still manage to say their food contains no wheat. It’s up to the consumer to always read labels.

Luckily, we live in the best time for gluten free products and many stores and organic grocers take the time to label foods as gluten free. Wheat in baking can easily be replaced with products such as brown rice or potato flour, and even many mainstream restaurants offer vast menu options such as gluten free pizza and gluten free bread, which tastes as great as any wheat product.

The truth is, though, many are not allergic to wheat in this world. They don’t have intolerance or celiac disease, however, there is still a good reason for wheat to be avoided, as it possess harmful and addictive properties that can hurt anybody.

William Davis, a preventive cardiologist and author of Wheat Belly, has noted the dangers of wheat and how the current strain we use is not the same as it was 50 years ago, and many wheat strains undergo processes such as sterilization by gamma radiation or utilize sodium azide, a highly toxic chemical to humans.

Aside from production practices, wheat is noted for being a cause of weight gain, as it contains amylopectin A, which is converted to blood sugar and can increase blood sugar levels higher than that of a candy bar. The cycle of eating wheat is one of highs and lows, where blood sugars decrease causing hunger and another wheat product is grabbed to snack on again, subsequently causing blood sugar to go back up. If wheat is removed, the appetite stimulant in our bodies is gone, and we’re no longer as hungry all the time.

Lastly, wheat is addictive. It’s broken down into a collection of gluten-derived polypeptides that are released into the bloodstream and eventually enter the brain, binding to the brain’s opiate receptors. When a wheat product is eaten, one obtains a mild euphoria. However, its been tested that the pleasurable feelings are blocked when given naloxone, an opiate blocker commonly given to heroin addicts.

On my own personal journey in decreasing the amount of wheat I consume, I’ve seen many of these situations take place. I snack less and I crave less, and because my blood sugar isn’t constantly changing I’m not as tired as I used to be. Upon removing wheat from my diet, I longed for bread, sandwiches and pizza, but now I hardly think of eating such things.

To avoid wheat may be hard for some at first, but the results seem to be truly beneficial and studies continue to show that it may not be as healthy for us as we once thought. Wheat-free does not mean food-free, and anyone can live more happy and healthy without wheat products.

About Garrett Yim

Garrett is a staff writer on the Daily Titan. Serving as a staff writer of the Daily Titan is a requirement for all Journalism majors.