I actually considered watching “What the Health?” but honestly, I was over hearing about it. It was all the buzz on social media for months. With so many people giving their opinions and having their “Aha” moments, I felt like I already watched it. So instead, I decided to watch “What’s With Wheat?” I had this documentary saved on my Netflix list for a while. I intended to watch it shortly after my IBS diagnosis in October 2016, because my GI doctor recommended that I avoid gluten, because it is difficult for the body to digest. I initially had a hard time eliminating wheat, because I grew up eating so much of it. I LIVED for a bologna or PB & J sandwich on Wonder Bread. So, why now at 30 something years old, do I experience digestive discomfort when consuming wheat? It made me wonder, what is in wheat NOW that wasn’t always present? This documentary proved to be eye opening as well as help me answer that very question. My hope is that by reading this post, you gain perspective on the wheat industry and become a more informed consumer whether or not you have a gluten intolerance or allergy. I am not a medical professional, nor and I telling you how to eat. You are free to make your own choices and create a lifestyle that works best for you.
The documentary provides perspective from farmers, scientists and nutritionists who discuss how gluten intolerance developed and how modern processes may be the cause. The documentary begs the question “So are we allergic to wheat? Or are we allergic to what’s been done to it?”
The documentary opens with a brief history of the agricultural industry. In the 1940’s, people weren’t consuming enough calories. So cereal was invented as a shelf-stable item to give people the calories they needed so they wouldn’t die from starvation.
Also during that time, wheat became fortified with vitamins and minerals in an effort to combat malnutrition. But during that fortification process, the wheat bran and germ were removed and chemicals were added. When those two elements are removed during production, there are few nutrients remaining. Much of the protein and fiber are stripped turning it into the common white flour we see today.
Also during the 1940’s, Ancel Keys conducted The Minnesota Starvation Experiment: “The Biology of Human Starvation” from 1944-1945. He sought to examine the effects of famine on the human body. As a result of his findings, he demonized fat and steered people away from what was a standard American breakfast of bacon and eggs. Some experts suggest he fabricated the correlation between fat and heart disease. So with fewer people consuming fat, they introduced more carbohydrates into their diets.
Another notable scientist during this era was Norman Borlaug. Borlaug worked for the corn and wheat board and sought to mechanize the agricultural production of wheat, known as the Green revolution, to increase output and help feed those in starving countries. He was awarded a Nobel Peace prize for his work. However, to increase output, more chemicals were added to the crops to help the plant thrive and be more resistant against disease and pests.
By the end of 1945, the same manufacturer who was creating the chemicals for warfare were also creating the chemicals for agriculture. Yeah, read that part again. Instead of looking at the health of the plant, farmers were looking at the yield of the plant. Chemical fertilization leaves foods and crops deficient in vitamins and minerals.
Our wheat has become so commercialized and manipulated over the years that it doesn’t even resemble what it once was, resulting in wheat being one of the most problematic foods in the American diet. The chemicals in wheat are causing inflammation in our bodies. This is why we are noticing an increase in Celiac disease, gluten intolerance and even autism.
Gluten is a protein found in wheat. When we eat a normal protein (not the gluten protein from wheat), we eat it and is goes into our gut, our body pulls it apart into individual amino acids, and then we absorb them. Unfortunately, gluten is poorly digested causing damage to the gut and exposing the insides of the damaged cells to the immune system. Your body sees it as something it doesn’t like and it develops an immune reaction to it. This is known as an immune complex, which is very difficult for the body to get rid of once it develops. It can affect the brain, gut or cause an outward reaction, such as a rash on someone who suffers from eczema. Every part of the body can become inflamed, even the heart.
Another issue with wheat products is that they can be addictive. One documentary contributor noted the look of fear on people’s faces when he told them to eliminate wheat. “So I can’t have cereal? How am I supposed to eat a sandwich?” Aside from sugar, the most common foods people have an issue with are foods that contain gluten, such as bread or pasta. Gluten can be converted in the liver to a morphine like derivative called an endorphin. These morphine’s go to the brain and give that feeling of “Hi! I feel great!” So, it triggers the same brain response we get from a drug.
I will admit that I was also stubborn and didn’t want to give up wheat. But I learned to not focus on what I couldn’t have, but instead focus on all of the other nutrient-rich foods I can still have. Eliminating wheat as much as possible will not leave us nutrient deficient by any means. There are still an abundance of options that I enjoy, such as brown rice, quinoa, sweet potato, squash, corn tortillas, and gluten free bread.
So, knowing all of this about wheat, how do we move forward? The purpose of the documentary is to encourage us to ask questions and be more aware, and to understand the way food is produced. As a society, we have forgotten what it feels like to be healthy. The food we eat is sending signals to our DNA, which is our code of life. We are either sending signals that code for health or signals that code for disease. Modern agriculture has suddenly given us genetic information that our bodies don’t know how to handle.
To heal our bodies from the inside out, we have to go back to diet and lifestyle. So eating more whole, unprocessed foods, moving our bodies, meditative practices, and being surrounded by a supportive social network and a loving family.
To read my other IBS series posts, then click the links below: