5 ways grains are damaging your body
Alright, here goes the crazy Paleo girl again, and now she’s trash-talking grains. What did bread ever do to you? Well, actually a number of things that are really damaging to the human body. In fact, one could compare the consumption of these havoc-wreaking foods to punching oneself in the face. Don’t believe me? Better keep reading! Let’s start by looking at the history of grains so we can tackle exactly why they are so damaging to our health.
Our bodies are not designed to process grains.
Humans have only been consuming grains since the beginning of agriculture. Before that, grains were not a part of our diet. Which means… ding ding ding, our bodies are not made to process them! In fact, the only animals really meant to eat grains are birds, whose bodies are adapted to eating them. Humans, not so much. We may eventually develop the adaptations needed to properly process them, but for now we have not. If you want to find out more about adaptation to grains please read this great article by The Paleo Mom.
So, sure, our bodies aren’t designed to eat grains from a biological standpoint. But what does that actually translate to when it comes to me actually consuming a piece of bread? Let’s break it down. Here are the ways grains are slowly taking a desctructive toll on your body:
1. A lectin… uh… like that thing we had in November to pick the president?
Not quite. Lectins are proteins that are present in basically every plant (usually the seed) and animal. Since grains and legumes are the seeds of their plants, they have a very high concentration of lectins. But what are they?! Lectins are a plant’s natural pesticide – so they exist mainly to protect the plant from invaders, as well as to aid in protein synthesis. Needless to say, when we consume them, it’s not so great for us.
Over time, lectins poke little holes in your intestines, which allows some not-so-nice stuff to leak out of them and into your bloodstream. So not only are these nature-made pesticides (which are very sticky and great at binding with your tissues) free to roam about your bloodstream, but they also bring with them harmful bacteria that is not meant to leave your intestines (E. coli anyone?). Now you have leaky gut.
So what happens after these little buggers start wandering about your bloodstream? Can’t be good, right? Your body fights back! Your body loves you and doesn’t want you to be attacked by these invaders. But despite your body’s efforts, it can’t change the fact that the lectins have attached themselves to your tissues. So fighting the lectins turns into fighting your own tissues. There’s a word for this, guys – autoimmune disease. As in… arthritis, Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, etc. Hence, consuming lectins really is like punching yourself in the face. Told you it would make sense eventually.
Along the same lines as lectins is gliadin, the protein in wheat gluten. Now, in the past, the only people prescribed “gluten-free” diets were those with celiac disease. We are now finding that gluten is not just damaging to these individuals but also affects everyone to a different degree.
“In celiac disease the body will make antibodies to gliadin after it is digested by the intestinal enzyme tissue transglutaminase, resulting in severe autoimmune damage to the delicate, absorptive surfaces of the intestines. It does not, however, require full blown celiac disease to suffer from the adverse effects of this protein. In fact, it is likely that our intolerance to gliadin and related wheat proteins is a species-specific intolerance, applicable to all humans, with the difference being a matter of the degree to which it causes harm.” Dr. Joseph Mercola, “Eating This Can Tear Holes in Your Gut”
2. Grains are extremely acidic.
So in a pre-agricultural world, getting a balance of acidic and alkaline foods was pretty simple. Meat and eggs are acidic, whereas veggies and fruit are alkaline. What did hunter-gatherers eat? Exactly those things. So there wasn’t much room for complication in this area. Now enter grains, which are acidic. Grains offset the nice balance that the meat and veggies have created and make your body way more acidic than it was intended to be. And who takes the hit for this offense? Liver, kidneys, pancreas. Poor guys.
3. Phytic acid
Say what? Phytic acid is an anti-nutrient found in grains, legumes, corn, soy and some nuts and seeds. The nature of this acid is in its definition – it’s anti-nutritional. It binds to the vitamins in foods and deprives the body of critical nutrients. The result? Iron, zinc, magnesium and calcium deficiencies. So… anemia, weak bones, weakened immune system and possibly even infertility. No bueno.
Remember those nasty bacteria that were released into your bloodstream by that leaky gut? We’re not done with them yet. When they’re floating around your bloodstream, your body does what it does to the lectins – attacks. Your body’s immune response depends upon what exactly has seeped out of your gut. Some toxins will cause inflammation by releasing inflammatory cytokins and the liver will have to work hard to filter them out. But when your liver is on overdrive, the rest of the body builds up toxins (your liver is awesome but it isn’t Superman) and experiences inflammation. Now we’ve got inflammation-related health problems like asthma. Yikes.
5. Carb intake and elevated insulin
The main source of carbohydrates in most people’s diets are grains. Now you do need a certain amount of carbs in your diet to survive, of course, but these should come from vegetables and fruits. Start taking in too many carbohydrates from grains (which are much, much higher in carbs than veggies and fruits) and your insulin levels will spike. Insulin’s job is to lower your blood sugar levels after carb consumption. What happens when you’ve consumed more carbs (which are converted to sugar) than your body needs? They get stored as fat. What’s even worse is that when your insulin is constantly elevated – which it will be if you are consuming excessive amounts of carbs from grains – your pancreas has to work overtime to produce even more insulin to combat inflammation. Then, eventually, your cells are immune to the insulin your body produces. Now you’re diabetic.
I know this all sounds horrible, but there’s a solution, and it’s amazingly uncomplicated. Stop consuming so many grains! I guarantee that you will not only physically feel better once you start withdrawing from carbs, but you will also mentally feel better knowing you’re doing something easy and proactive to ensure your optimal health.
Here are some great resources for finding out more about grains and other Paleo questions you might have: