In a recent report, 70-80 percent of Americans are experiencing some form of digestive distress, while one-third are obese and more than 100 million adults are pre-diabetic and don’t know it. While many like to blame all of this on wheat, many food scientists do not agree.
While the standard American diet for non-celiacs includes processed wheat, and are likely responsible for these health concerns, there is also plenty of science that links a diet rich in whole grains including whole wheat to weight loss, better digestion and lower blood sugar. The Mediterranean Diet is still revered as one of the healthiest diets on the planet, and is replete with whole grains and wheat. The centenarians (folks over 100) who live in the Blue Zones eat a non-processed whole food diet, once again, rich in whole grains and wheat.
So, why are so many Americans having trouble digesting wheat? That’s just it… They are not digesting it! Many who are gluten sensitive today digested wheat fine when they were young, but are currently having trouble. Somewhere along the line, our ability to digest foods that are a bit harder to digest, like wheat and dairy, became compromised.
Remove All Processed Foods
The first step in re-booting digestive strength is removing all the processed foods. A processed food diet has been linked to a 141 percent increase in belly fat, high blood sugar and high cholesterol. In the same study, a diet of whole grains including wheat reduced the risk of these health concerns by 38 percent.
Fitness pioneer Jack LaLanne once told me the best way to eat is to never eat anything out of a package. The reason why processed foods are processed in the first place is so they can sit on a shelf for extended periods of time. Whole foods, as we all know, go bad quickly and it is not always possible to eat freshly cooked food. So, here are simple ingredient label navigation tips to avoid highly processed foods.
1. Avoid all added sugars or artificial sweeteners. Allow nothing over 6 grams of naturally-occurring sugar per serving.
2. Avoid refined, cooked oils. (Anything baked with oils or fried, i.e., bread, baked goods, chips, etc.)
3. Avoid all chemicals. Don’t eat it if you don’t recognize the name in the ingredients.
Re-boot Liver and Gallbladder Function
In the 1960’s, when the FDA put cholesterol on the nutrient concern list, food manufacturers started boiling, bleaching, deodorizing and refining vegetable oils. They were used as preservatives to keep bread squishy and “fresh” for weeks. After almost 60 years of blindly consuming these indigestible oils, they remain the number one reason for the great American digestive breakdown. The processed oils both congested the liver and gallbladder, rendering the liver’s bile unable to break down both good and bad fats and insufficient to buffer stomach acids. Without adequate bile production to neutralize stomach acid, the stomach will not produce the needed acid to digest proteins like gluten and the casein in dairy. This has resulted in a huge spike in gallbladder surgeries and epidemic levels of obesity, high blood sugar and food intolerances. It is natural to blame the hard-to-digest foods, but removing them only addresses the symptoms and leaves the cause – weak digestion left untreated only to haunt your health down the road.
Boost Bile Flow
The first step in strengthening the stomach’s digestive acid is to make sure there is plenty of bile flow from the liver and gallbladder. To boost bile flow, enjoy these foods daily:
4. Eat one red beet and one apple day. They can be raw, cooked, juiced or blended.
5. Add 1 teaspoon of coconut oil and one teaspoon of high quality olive oil.
6. Eat more artichokes, celery and leafy greens.
7. Drink fennel and fenugreek tea with meals.
Strengthen Stomach Fire
Once the liver is making adequate bile and the bile ducts and gallbladder are less congested, then you can stimulate the stomach to make the stomach acid needed to break down hard-to-digest so-called “allergenic” foods. Instead of taking digestive enzymes or a HCI stomach acid pill, I prefer to stimulate the stomach to make its own acid, and the small intestine and pancreas to make their own digestive enzymes. This is best done with the following five spices:
8. Ginger, cumin, coriander, cardamom and fennel.
Studies suggest that when these five spices are used together, they act as a total upper digestive re-boot. They can be taken as a supplement, in cooking or used to flavor food. These five star spices:
- Increase bile flow (no need for bile salts)
- Increase pancreatic enzyme activity (no need for digestive enzymes)
- Increase small intestine enzyme activity (no need for digestive enzyme supplements)
- Decrease gas and bloating (no need for HCl supplements)
- Increase fat and sugar metabolism
- Are powerful free radial scavengers
- Support optimal weight
- Support microbiology health (especially ginger)
- Improve gut health
- Support a healthy growth rate of good bacteria (especially ginger)
- Decrease H. pylori from adhering to stomach
- Are digestive stimulants
- Quicken the transit time in the intestines – supporting better elimination
Following these eight simple steps of nutritional navigation, boosting bile flow and stomach strengthening, will set you on the right path to retrain your body to digest (and enjoy!) wheat again.