Gluten Intolerance is affecting more and more people in America. I love home made bread! There is nothing quite like it. I’m not talking about the cheater’s kind that I make in my breadmaker! I’m talking about the bread you actually have to hand knead! The loaves turn out so soft and wonderful in texture. Even though I love my breadmaker the loaves are tougher than my hand kneaded ones. My honey whole wheat bread is truly a natural and wholesome bread that is sugar-free and made with home ground wheat and spelt berries. Unfortunately, because wheat has undergone genetic modification since the 70s, the enzymes it releases now causes all kinds of averse reactions in consumers.
But many of my friends have Gluten Intolerance and can’t enjoy delicious wheat, oats, rye, spelt, or barley because of the gluten in those grains. Well, there’s a reason more and more people in America are becoming gluten intolerant. It has to do with the way flour manufacturers process the flour, and the way farmers harvest the wheat which is completely different than 100 years ago.
Here is one of my homemade honey whole wheat bread loaves we sliced up with our electric knife for company the other day.
My information is coming mostly from Nourishing Traditions–The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats. It is a fabulous and insightful read for those who want to learn more about nutrition and how the ways our foods are processed today are killing us!
I cannot recommend this book highly enough. It is filled with hundreds of pages of research and recipes that provide great information and ways to eat healthier. It also has a more balanced perspective than many books that want to throw the baby out with the bathwater. If you are serious about nutrition, GET THIS BOOK!!!
I am convinced part of the reason for so much gluten intolerance is the way traditional flours are milled, processed, and stored. Flour manufacturers subject the wheat to harsh heat processes that denude the grain and render it completely nutrientless. Conventional flours are bleached subjecting the flour to non-natural processes and chemicals that have not been proven to be non-harmful to the body (Nourishing Traditions, 24).
Why Americans can’t digest wheat flour easily:
1) One of the main reasons our culture has difficulty digesting whole grains (and flours where the grains are stripped) is because of a substance called phytic acid.
Phytic acid naturally occurs in grains and binds to substances like “phosphorous, iron, calcium, magnesium, copper and zinc in the intestinal tract, blocking their absorption. Whole grains also contain enzyme inhibitors that can interfere with digestion. Traditional societies usually soak or ferment their grains before eating them, processes that neutralize phytates and enzyme inhibitors and, in effect, predigest grains so that all their nutrients are more available. Sprouting, overnight soaking, and old-fashioned sour leavening can accomplish this important predigestion process in our own kitchens. Many people who are allergic to grains will tolerate them well when they are prepared according to these procedures. Proper preparation techniques also help break down complex sugars in legumes, making them more digestible” (Nourishing Traditions, 25).
2) “A diet high in unfermented whole grains may lead to serious mineral deficiencies and bone loss….Soaking allows enzymes, lactobacilli and other helpful organisms to break down and neutralize phytic acid. The simple process of soaking cracked or rolled cereal grains overnight will vastly improve their nutritional benefits” (Nourishing Traditions, 452).
3) “Whole grain flour goes quickly rancid after grinding” (Nourishing Traditions, 67). Since this is the case many need to ask themselves how long the flour has been stored in warehouses and silos before it got to the grocery store, how long it’s been on the shelf at the store, and how long it’s been in the pantry. Flour should be stored in the freezer to keep it free from bugs and rancidity.
4) In years gone by before the industrial age grains would be left in the fields in partially germinated form which increased vitamin C and vitamin B and, because of the sprouting process, phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors were neutralized thus aiding digestion. “Complex sugars responsible for intestinal gas are broken down during sprouting, and a portion of the starch in grain is transformed into sugar. Sprouting inactivates aflatoxins, potent carcinogens found in grains. Finally, numerous enzymes that help digestion are produced during the germination process” (Nourishing Traditions, 112).
5) Scientists have shown that diets high in unfermented whole grains, especially gluten-based grains like oats, wheat, rye, barley and spelt are severely difficult to digest. “When this mechanism breaks down with age or overuse, the results take the form of allergies, celiac disease, mental illness, chronic indigestion and candida albicans overgrowth. Recent research links gluten intolerance with multiple sclerosis. During the process of soaking and fermenting, gluten and other difficult-to-digest proteins are partially broken down into simpler components that are more readily available for absorption” (Nourishing Traditions, 453).
6) “The proteins of grain and milk, namely gluten and casein, are two of the hardest proteins for humans to digest. This is one reason that traditional cultures usually soak or sprout grains and culture their dairy products before eating them. Problems with milk also stem from the body’s inability to produce the enzyme lactase, required to break down lactose or milk sugar. The process of fermenting or culturing milk products breaks down a portion of the lactose; even so, large numbers cannot tolerate milk products in any form. Some people are sensitive to the high levels of the amino acid tyramine found in cheddar-type cheeses” (Nourishing Traditions, 56).
7) One of the other points Nourishing Traditions makes is that the process of soaking and sprouting grains releases enzymes so that the body actually digests the grain as a vegetable instead of as a starch. (Unfortunately, I have hunted high and low for the quote and can’t find it, but the information comes from this book).
8) The writers of Nourishing Traditions recommend soaking all grains, seeds and legumes including quinoa, all beans, and rice before consumption so this very helpful enzymatic process can occur to aid in digestion. Yes, it takes more time but if you want to protect yourself and your family from future chronic illness, gluten intolerance or other maladies, it is a step that needs to be added back in to American diets!
9) One of the things that can help in soaking and sprouting grains is to do large amounts at a time. Nourishing Traditions recommends sprouting grains in a large mason jar where about one third of the jar is grain and the rest filled with water. If you have you’re own grinder you can purchase wheat berries, sprout them in a few days, dry them out and then grind and put in freezer bags in your freezer. You can store the grain indefinitely in the freezer and you can pull it out any time to bake bread.
10) As with any information of this kind, don’t go overboard so that you become completely overwhelmed with the process of soaking and sprouting grains. Do as much as you can! Any amount is better than none! If you have digestive issues but really like homemade bread, then sprout it ahead of time as mentioned in #9 above and freeze so you always have good, wholesome flour on hand when you want it. I try to soak rice a couple of hours before using. You won’t believe the difference in taste. The more sprouting and soaking you do, the easier your digestive issues will be. But for those who work full time this will be difficult to manage. As I stated earlier, do the best you can and don’t go into a guilt-mode for what you are unable to do.
11) Those who are truly gluten intolerant even after soaking and sprouting grains, beans, and seeds will have to consider using alternative flours from grains, nuts, and seeds that are not high in gluten. Many of these are extremely expensive but the only options currently available. If you are looking for a source that has both organic wheat berries or other alternative flours and grains check out www.azurestandard.com. Their website and their product catalog are extensive.