The “Grainular” Side of Grain-free
Many times, people are surprised to learn that Caroline and I don’t eat grains and often ask about alternatives such as rice or quinoa. Other times, people are somewhat concerned thinking that we don’t get enough vitamins. To the contrary, eating grain-free can be very healthy and is not that difficult. Though grains do contain vital nutrients, there are many other whole food sources from which one can get these vitamins and minerals. On a personal level, after switching to grain-free eating, I have noticed an increase in my energy levels, during the day, as well as in my endurance and speed on the tennis court.
So, before you formulate your opinion on grain-free eating, I want to discuss grains on a more granular level.
Firstly, grains contain lectins which hurt the gut and in turn, increase one’s chance of developing food allergies. Lectins are carbohydrate-binding proteins and when consumed, they agglutinate cells while crosslinking with and binding to specific carbohydrate receptors. Agglutinins can enter into the body, crossing and damaging the gut barrier. It is noted that lectins act like antibodies as they are made to protect the plant from which they come from. In other words, lectins are poisonous as they are part of the defense mechanism of plants and made to protect plants from predators. Therefore, when they enter the human body, an inflammatory response is caused. Lectins bind to tissues (of many enzymes and blood cells) for very long periods of time and consequently, alter antigenic composition.
Grains additionally contain phytic acid, which bind to essential minerals such as zinc and magnesium, blocking the ability of the human body to absorb them. One study showed that eating many cereal grains leads to calcium deficiency and an increased risk of the disease rickets. Also, it is very difficult for humans to digest phytic acid.
Grains are also high in carbs and cause an increase in blood sugar which is not suitable for diabetics. Bacteria feeds on sugar and therefore, grains alter gut flora. The gut becomes a breeding ground for more bacteria and even, yeast overgrowth, parasites and E.coli. This dysbioisis or imbalance of beneficial gut flora causes gas bloating and never-ending food and carb cravings.
Furthermore, cross reactivity is another drawback of eating a grain-rich diet. This is especially an issue when people already have a damaged and leaky gut as any food that resembles gluten will cause irritation. All grains have a very similar structure and since it is difficult for the human body to tell different grains apart, the body has an increased immune response to many other grains besides gluten like corn, quinoa and rice.
As you removes grains from your diet, your gut should heal as your body is able to absorb more nutrients.