50 Shades of Grain

Gluten gets a bad rap and everyone who's anyone knows that gluten is from the Devil. Or is it?

Gluten damages the intestine and makes it leaky. Researchers believe that a leaky gut is one of the major causes of obesity, diabetes and autoimmune disease.

But gluten is only a very small part of the story, although it is an important piece. Celiac disease is a condition of severe gluten intolerance, marked by antibodies to specific components of gluten. It can be debilitating at best, and fatal at worst.

What if your nutritional salvation is not all about avoiding wheat, barley and rye? While it's true that this trinity of grains is the group most likely to cause intestinal inflammation due in part to the high amount of gluten, there is a little more to the story.

It starts like this: all grains can be problematic. Yep. Even the most righteous ones like quinoa and the most esoteric like teff. How is that possible? 

A brief reminder about what grains really are:

seeds of grasses.

Corn is a grain. Picture a corn stalk - it's a big, wide blade of grass that creates a seed cone at the top as it matures that we call an ear of corn. If you don't pick it, that ear of corn will dry out and the seed kernels will fall to the ground so more corn will grow. 

Seeds are all about propagating the species and growing more of the same plant. So seeds are designed to survive, not break down easily. Thus, they are difficult to digest for everyone to one degree or another. You may have noticed that they often pass through the intestines intact.

Wheat, corn, rice, barley, sorghum, oats, rye and millet are gluten-containing grains and staples in the human diet. Consider how much grain you eat in a typical day. Bread, crackers, cereal, cookies, pretzels and chips are all grain-based foods. 

The question is not which grains to avoid as much as it is how much grain should you eat?  

That depends. How healthy are you right now? How good do you want to feel? Do you have a chronic symptom like bloating, acne, sore joints, fatigue or brain fog? Do you struggle with your weight? Get off grain for a few weeks and see what happens. Millions of people have experienced relief and effortless weight loss by making this easy adjustment.

Two more reasons to cut out or cut back on grains: they are addictive and fattening. The "gluteo-morphins" (with a morphine effect) in grains make us love eating them. Think of the carb-coma after a bowl of spaghetti, whether the pasta is made from wheat, rice or quinoa. That explains why we crave those foods and often eat too much of them. Refined flours, or when grains are pounded into dust, are quickly digested as glucose (melt into sugar). That means we are not getting much nutrition from these foods and will most likely store the calories as body fat.

Get off grain, Jane. Put down the crack(er), Jack.

Make a new plan, Stan.

Just listen to me.


Breaking up with "comfort" foods can be tough. For 50 ways to leave your lover, let me help.