The Truth about Modern Wheat: Effects on the Gut, Brain, and Immunity

You probably know a person who doesn’t take wheat because they’re gluten intolerant.

Or it’s you and you are trying to improve your health, and the nutritionist suggested you drop wheat. 

That said, what makes wheat, such a sweet and delicious grain in most meals bad for your health? 

But today, we will break it down, such that you’ll understand what hybridization has done, the structure of the current-day wheat, and how it affects your health. 

Finally, we will look at a few alternatives to wheat. So, don’t worry about going hungry for lack of options. 

Hybridization of Wheat 

Before the 1950s, the wheat structure was different than it is today. It was long, didn’t have as high yield as it is today, and had a simple structure. 

Following the Green Revolution in the 1950s, the traditional wheat was hybridized to reduce disease resistance and increase yield. In fact, Norman Borlaug received the Nobel Peace Prize for saving millions of lives from starvation. 

However, what wasn’t considered, was how this hybridization would affect the gut and other parts of the body. 

  • Einkhon – a fragile structure and easy to break down (how it started
  • Emmer – not as fragile but still easy to break down (improved)
  • Hybridized wheat – a complex structure and very hard to break down (what we have currently)
Wheat VarietyEase of Breakdown (Gut)Chromosomal Structure 
EinkornRelatively Easy14
Modern-Day WheatHard to breakdown42

Understanding the Structure of the Modern-day Wheat

Wheat has two major components – starch and protein. We will look at both of them in detail. 

The Starch Amylopectin A in Wheat 

The starch in the wheat is broken down into amylopectin A, which has a high glycemic index. 

  • The wholemeal wheat has a GI of 72. This is what diabetic patients are told to eat because it’s healthy! And you wonder why no improvement or remission? 
  • Refined wheat has a GI of 69 

The glycemic index is a measure of how fast the food raises blood glucose. The best foods have a GI of 55 and below. A  high GI means it shoots the blood glucose so high so fast. 

So when you take wheat, your glucose goes off the roof, above the right and normal levels as shown in the diagram below.  

The pancreas releases insulin to lower the glucose level. The higher the spike the more insulin is needed. Since this happens so fast, the glucose levels get so low again and you’ll feel your energy levels so low. 

The pancreas in response releases glucagon hormone to raise the blood glucose. This works by glucagon sending a message to the liver to release stored fats that get broken down to produce energy. 

But for most people, they’ll reach out for a snack to raise their blood glucose levels. All these high highs and low lows overburden the pancrease. 

What’s the Outcome of the Such High Highs? 

With wheat raising the glucose levels too high, too many times within a short time, this is what happens to various organs. 

1. Pancrease and Insulin Resistance 

Insulin is the key that unlocks the body cells to allow glucose from the blood into the cell. When too much glucose is released (following a high wheat diet), the body cells start resisting the insulin since they’ve enough glucose and can’t take it anymore. 

This excess glucose is stored by the liver and muscles in the form of glycogen. If there is excess glucose still, the body converts it to fat and it’s stored in the fat cells around your organs and your belly. It’s called wheat belly. 

Over time, these high glucose levels lead to a decrease in the number of insulin receptors on the surface of the cells. Insulin receptors are proteins that bind to insulin and allow it to enter the cell and signal the cell to absorb glucose from the bloodstream.

When there are fewer insulin receptors on the surface of cells, the cells become less sensitive to insulin. This means that the body has to produce even more insulin to keep blood sugar levels under control. Unfortunately, the glucose doesn’t get into the cells and remains in the bloodstream. 

This cycle can continue until the pancrease can no longer produce enough insulin to keep blood sugar levels under control. In other words, the beta cells become exhausted and even start to malfunction. At this point, the person has developed type 2 diabetes (hyperglycemia/high blood sugar levels)

2. Effect on the Brain Function 

Just like any other cell in the body, high glucose levels can result in insulin resistance of the brain cells, affecting energy that gets to the brain. This will explain the fogginess that many people experience. 

Beyond that high glucose affects the neurotransmitters in the brain, especially dopamine. This neurotransmitter controls our mood, learning, memory, and behavior. 

Most probably you’ve experienced sugar cravings and irritability or a good feeling after snacking on a bar of chocolate or cookies. This is because of the nice feeling of sugar on the dopamine receptors in the brain. 

If the dopamine levels don’t remain within the normal range, this will interfere with cognitive abilities, learning, mood control, and memory. 

When high blood glucose levels are left uncontrolled, it can result in Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, and stroke. It’s also not uncommon to experience cognitive decline and dementia later in life. 

Other effects of high glucose on the brain include: 

  • Structural Brain Changes

Prolonged high blood sugar levels can lead to structural changes in the brain, including reduced brain volume and alterations in the hippocampus, a region crucial for memory and learning.

  • Impaired Neurotransmitter Function

 Hyperglycemia can affect neurotransmitter levels and function in the brain, potentially contributing to mood disorders and cognitive dysfunction.

  • Microvascular Damage

Chronic high blood sugar levels can lead to microvascular damage in the brain, similar to how it affects other organs. This can impair blood flow and nutrient delivery to brain cells, which is essential for proper function.

How Gluten (Protein in Wheat) Affects Your Gut Health 

Before we look at gluten and how it affects the gut, let’s look at the role of your gut biome. 

The gut is lined with healthy bacteria (gut flora) whose function is:

  • Final breakdown of food 
  • Assist in the absorption of nutrients into the blood 
  • Nourishment of the cells around the gastrointestinal tract 
  • Protects the blood from harmful pathogens from food

Gluten in the modern day hybridized wheat has a complex structure and it’s quite hard to fully break it down. It is broken down into gluteomorphins (opioid derivatives). 

If you have a compromised gut, it cannot provide a barrier against the gluteomorphins and therefore it will enter the bloodstream and be taken to the opioid receptors in the brain. 

This is one of the contributing factors to depression, schizophrenia, epilespy and autism

Effects of Wheat on Children

Have you ever considered what wheat does to your children? 

In his book, Stop Autism Now, Bruce Fife suggests that if parents stopped wheat, dairy, and refined sugars on their children with neurodegenerative disorders such as autism, and ADHD, they would experience up to 50% improvement. 

In fact, parents who have followed his recommendations on dietary modifications have reported significant improvement. 

Wheat is mostly used to prepare staple meals in most households such as bread, cakes, biscuits, and cookies. Have you noted something in these combinations? 

If not let me help you see it. Wheat combines with other gut irritants (dairy and refined sugar) and that’s what makes it unhealthy for children. 

When you find wheat, you’ll mostly find refined sugar and dairy in the combo, or should I call it the unholy trinity? Take a ‘healthy breakfast’ for example. Cereals, milk with added sugar, and bread/cakes/cookies. 

Why is Dairy Not the Best Choice 

I’d not planned on discussing cow milk (dairy) but since it’s so linked with wheat, I have decided to. Another reason, most people have been told that dairy has the highest calcium and is great for strong bones and teeth. But is it? And at what cost? 

Enough research studies have proved that increased milk intake doesn’t reduce osteoporosis (weak bones that can easily fracture). And did you also know that bones are made of 6 main elements and not just calcium? So for strong bones, you need all the minerals. 

Cow milk is great for baby calves but not the best for human babies. The reason is, that the cows have four stomachs and can easily break it down without affecting the gut negatively. 

Some people, especially those who have a history of taking cow milk, their gut can tolerate it and not have any negative implications. But it has to be raw, unhomogenized milk but should be boiled. 

The homogenized milk is not good for your health. It has been changed under high pressure and heat to reduce the fat particles and in the process loses its nutritional value like vitamins A and D. 

I have seen even some packaged milk with added artificial sugars, flavors, and colors to sweeten it for children. Could it get worse than that? And you wonder why our children have so many issues- eczema, celiac disease, ulcers, attention deficit, etc. 

Or do you think the low-fat milk is the best? Why should the manufacturers remove something that’s naturally occurring? It could just be a marketing gimmick for the health-conscious population who believe that fats increase cholesterol and cause heart disease. 

In his book, The Great Cholesterol Con, Dr. Malcolm Kendrick affirms, that there’s no relationship between high cholesterol and heart disease. And in fact, those cholesterol-lowering drugs (statins) are just products to enrich the manufacturers. Unfortunately, they’ve adverse effects on the organs. 

Anyway, I rest my case there.

But How Exactly Does Cow Milk Cause Gut Issues? 

Just like wheat, the protein in the milk is broken down into opioid derivatives called caseomorphins. They are absorbed into the bloodstream and taken to the opioid receptors in the brain. They contribute significantly to mental illnesses and disorders. 

For people whose gut cannot fully break down the milk, they release a partially digested protein in the bloodstream. The immune system senses a foreign substance and sends antigens to take it away and keep you safe. 

Unfortunately, the molecular structure of this partially digested milk protein resembles that of the pancreas’ beta cells. What do the antigens do? They also take away the beta cells and you have a compromised pancrease that cannot produce insulin as it should or release digestive enzymes. 

This is one of the causes of autoimmune diseases, where the body attacks itself instead of protecting it. But who allowed the body to do that? It’s us, through the foods we eat. 

What are the Effects of Reduced Beta Cells in the pancrease?

1. Insufficient Insulin Production

Beta cells are responsible for producing and releasing insulin in response to elevated blood sugar levels, such as after a meal. When beta cells die or are impaired, the pancrease may not produce enough insulin, leading to reduced insulin levels in the bloodstream.

2. Elevated Blood Sugar

With reduced insulin production, glucose from the food you eat is not effectively taken up by the body’s cells. 

This leads to elevated blood sugar levels, a condition known as hyperglycemia. High blood sugar can cause various health issues, including damage to blood vessels, nerves, and organs over time.

3. Type 1 Diabetes

In the case of Type 1 diabetes, the immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys the beta cells in the pancrease. As a result, individuals with Type 1 diabetes have very little to no insulin production. 

4.. Type 2 Diabetes

In Type 2 diabetes, which is more commonly associated with insulin resistance, the beta cells may become overworked and eventually become impaired. 

This results in reduced insulin production relative to the body’s needs, contributing to insulin resistance and elevated blood sugar levels.

What Next? 

With all this information, I know you may feel unsure of what to eat or not. You may be defensive or even wonder what you’ll eat or drink since all your great options have been taken away. 

But that’s not the case. You can eat organic foods such as sweet potatoes, green bananas, arrow roots, pumpkins, corn, etc. 

You are your best doctor and that of your children. Listen, observe, and research. If you realize you’ve gut issues, just stop wheat, dairy, and refined sugar. 

If your child feels uncomfortable, has bad moods in the morning, or has these issues that do not seem to go away, just drop the unholy combo. 

The answer is not in the best hospital. It’s in your kitchen and diet. Go for unprocessed, organic foods. You’ll love the outcome! 

Finally about milk – when we realize and appreciate that we shouldn’t eat and drink at the same time, it will be easy to stay without cow milk. E.g if you give your child a balanced meal in the morning, they won’t need milk and in between meals, they’ll hydrate with water. Easy! You can also check coconut milk or almond milk.