A Growing Movement of Farmers Using Heritage Grains (Wheat) to Address Gluten Sensitivity

I had been talking with a friend of mine who has IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) and mentioned that my “theory” is that the metabolism of millions of people hasn’t changed recently but that our wheat has changed so much over the past 50 years that it’s causing digestive problems. I went on to tell her about wheat that is grown in various parts of the world (Italy being one such country) where the wheat hasn’t been modified.  Well, this week she ran across an article in her regularly subscribed magazine, Gluten Free & More and the article was confirming what I told her.

The entire article is only available to subscribers but I’ve re-printed excerpts of it below.  Enjoy!

The rising number of people reacting to gluten is not a fad. Researchers theorize more people are reacting to gluten because modern day wheat is dramatically different from the wheat grown 50 years ago. Farmers have selectively bred wheat species for specific traits for hundreds of years but in the 1960s, hybridization became a science. Scientists skillfully created wheat with the specific characteristics manufacturers and farmers wanted,such as bigger crop yields, disease resistance and even better baking characteristics.

While there is fierce debate over whether or not today’s wheat contains more gluten than the wheat of yore, we do know people today consume much more gluten because it’s added to many processed food products. We also know that an analysis of 80 varieties of wheat found that modern wheat contains higher levels of two celiac disease epitopes.

An epitope is the reactive part of a molecule, in this case, the wheat molecule that stimulates the immune system to respond. White blood cells respond to the epitope (sometimes referred to as an antigen), triggering symptoms. Selective breeding may or may not have increased the amount of gluten in wheat but hybridization has definitely increased wheat’s reactive properties.

As I finished explaining gluten reactions, an audience member spoke up. “After ten years of being gluten sensitive, I heard about a pizza parlor that only used a special wheat flour from Italy.  (Carol’s note: there are great pastas on the market now made from whole wheat that is grown on small farms in Italy – this is all I use)

These ancient versions of wheat, of farmers, bakers and consumers experimenting with heritage grains also called heirloom wheat, have not been subject to the rigorous crossbreeding and aggressive hybridization of conventional modern grains. There is a growing movement of farmers, bak­ers and consumers experimenting with heritage grains as a way to address non-celiac gluten sensi­tivity. The Heritage Grain Conservancy (growseed.org), a 25-year-old organization that preserves almost-extinct seeds, reports the demand has been overwhelming .

While not safe for those with celiac disease, people with gluten sensitivity may be able to supplement their diet with heritage wheat, an idea that most should find easy to digest.

Excerpt of an Article Written by Licensed clinical nutritionist/dietitian Kelly Dorfman and published in the June/July issue of Gluten Free & More

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