Sunday, August 9, 2015

Grains or Not?

Currently in our culture, an extraordinary number of people have digestive disorders and challenges, some involving gluten sensitivity. There are now two well known diets recommending the elimination of grains: The GAPS diet and the Paleo diet.

The GAPS diet recommends removing all grains from the diet for a period of time in order to let the digestive system rest and heal. They believe that this protocol will heal people of the gluten sensitivity, allowing them to eventually tolerate gluten products after they heal. Many people have embraced the Paleo diet which also suggests removing grains from the diet and theorizes that humans are not meant to eat grains.

If you are focused on healthy eating and are trying to heal your body from digestive issues you have probably heard of these diets. For those of us that seem to heal slowly or barely at all, we are always looking for the next food or supplement or diet or practitioner that might help us turn things around. It can be grueling.

I have heard from people that have made progress on the GAPS diet. They will often turn to my book and gluten-free breads as a stepping stone before they reintroduce gluten breads. I have also heard from people that didn't do well on the diet. They were always hungry or their issues simply did not resolve. Some lost an alarming amount of weight and felt like they were starving.

I don't know too many people who practice the Paleo diet although a dear friend of mine has embraced it as a last resort after going through years of tests and different practitioners. She finally was diagnosed with intestinal parasites. Her practitioners are trying to strengthen her body to prepare for the parasite treatment. After many years, her health is finally improving on this diet! Removing the grains has really worked for her although she said she had to get used to the feeling of never feeling full after a meal. The Paleo diet eliminates all grains, gluten-free or otherwise, as well as legumes.

It could be very easy to fall prey to cultural pressure to go grain-free. As I get older, I need less grain at meals. Is it because I'm healing and utilize and assimilate my food better? Is it because I should be grain-free? Is it because humans need less calories as we get older? Is it because my blood type is a grain-eating blood type? (remember the blood type diet?)

As a child, I had blood sugar fluctuations. As an adult, I was diagnosed with Hashimoto's Thyroid disease, the symptoms of which, mimic hypoglycemia. We now know that these symptoms are linked to gluten sensitivity. Once, I tried going without grains which became a severe blood sugar roller coaster. I simply could not function. Proponents of those diets might say I'm grain-addicted but if grains makes me feel healthy, strong and clear headed and going without them makes me a nonfunctional mess, I don't see eating grains as an addiction or a problem for me.

Some people never need grains at a meal. Some people always need grains at a meal. It seems that for me, grains are fuel...and I need them to feel clear headed and stable. But not everyone seems to need them for fuel.

Those of us who are able to heal on a grain-free diet are fortunate that they have found the next step that moves them towards optimal health. Those of us that heal using other methods are also fortunate for the same reasons, that we move on to the next level of health. That's what it's all about. To get to the next level. And the next. And the next...until we feel good again.

People's bodies are different and people's histories are different. People's bodies need different diets at different times in their lives. No diet is right for everyone, no practitioner is right for everyone and no food is right for everyone.

Our generation has a host of new diseases that have baffled conventional medicine. The answers are coming slowly and seem to have to do with having access to clean food and water while minimizing medication and environmental toxins.

Grains or Not? The answer will always lie with how you and your children react to grains or no grains. Your gut knows what it needs and will let you know, if you pay close attention. If you are the parent of a small child with food sensitivities, until your child can tell you how s/he feels, you must trust your own instinct and observations over the many strong messages out there.

A mother of a young child asked my opinion about something I've heard a number of times:
"Fermentation will completely eliminate the gluten in wheat or rye bread."

This woman's sister was pressuring her to give her gluten-sensitive child sourdough wheat bread, saying it was safe and would not hurt her since it was fermented. The mother was hesitant, given her child's other anaphylactic allergies. This is where I began ranting. I apologized for the rant but she said "Please, I really want you to tell me how you feel about thisl". I ranted and railed for awhile and finally got to a place of composure again whereupon I said:

             "Even if the tests say that fermentation will completely neutralize gluten, the tests still don't speak to the depth of the child's complicated medical history and stressed digestive and immune systems. The tests test the gluten, not the patient. New diseases cannot be resolved with blanket statements that worked in the past, even if they fed people for millenia, like sourdough bread. And you know how committed I am to the concept of sourdough bread!!

I strongly believe in traditionally prepared foods as they dramatically helped me to heal. But so did removing gluten from my diet. Together, they helped me heal. Our current diseases are deeply complex. Our road back to health can be equally complex since we have little information about these diseases upon which to base healing treatments."

New diseases, new theories, new treatments. Our bodies will let us know what works for us. I support you to trust your gut and exercise control over your body as well as your child's body. And keep the faith that you will heal. It makes a big difference!