During my walks at the Milton Country Park and also by the CAM river, I have noticed more signs advising people not to feed ducks with bread, as “their stomach cannot digest it”. Well, this is a change as it seems that ducks used to eat bread happily before, as testified by many traditional children-stories.
So what has changed? The duck or the bread?
You have guessed it: this is the bread, and specifically the wheat in it….
Humans have been eating wheat for more than 10,000 years. It originates from the Northern part of the Middle East and quickly spread following a vertical lines to Europe, Northern Africa and also China…. It is now one of the most widely grown crops in the world.
Domesticating and producing wheat changed the course of our History… less people had to work the fields and cities started to expand (a time called the Neolithic revolution).
Bread stayed more or less the same until the 1850s…. However, during the industrial revolution, white flour could easily be produced, to the benefit of the bread-makers – the white part of the wholegrain flour was easier to preserve and more elastic, thanks to a higher content in gluten (think Glue). Many pastries and the very thin pizza base came up thanks to this innovation…. However, the nutrient content was much poorer, and also the discarded part of the grain had more fibre, an important component for healthy bowels. The white floor was actually so elastic and sticky that it used by tradesmen to glue various things like wallpaper before the advent of industrial glue
The 1960s Green Revolution was however the biggest game changer for wheat and our tummy – wheat plants were modified to grow shorter but much more quickly – up to 4 harvests could be achieved. With the heavy use of pesticides and fertilisers, there was no need to replenish the soil or manage biodiversity, or so it seemed for a short while….The short-growing wheat was supposed to help farmers produce more, and make more money.
However, this type of wheat had an additional quality for the agro-industry: you needed much less of the modern wheat to make a loaf of bread, as long as more yeast and water was added…. Because of this different water/ wheat ratio, the chemical structure of bread was actually changed as well. Bread, a traditional staple during thousands of years had just suddenly changed in a couple of years.
Mass production of wheat and a lesser need for bread meant that its wholesale price plummeted. In Europe and the USA, it was almost impossible for traditional producers to compete with this new form of wheat, grown on large intensive farms.
The changes in wheat got even more accelerated as newer varieties were built on top of newer varieties… Except for a slightly a lower price, there was no benefit to the end user, the one eating the wheat – some forms of modern wheat have very little healthy nutrient, a higher rate of toxins. For instance 5% of the proteins found in them were never found in the original wheat plants.
When a backlash started about the poor nutritional quality of wheat, the agricultural industry responded by “fortifying ” wheat with additional chemically-made vitamins, to make up for the loss.
Today, Genetic Editing, a milder form of Genetic Modification is being heavily trialled on wheat, and will even accelerate the changes in the type of wheat and bread that we are used to. It is just impossible for the human race, which changes throughout adaptation and generational changes to catch up to the wheat-modification.
Why would modern wheat impact the digestive system
A healthy digestion relies on two principles, our body’s ability to break down food and eliminate toxins (“metabolism”), and a healthy intestinal bacterial flora (microbiome), which will process food in our intestines.
A human and duck digestive system has been optimised to eat food that his / her ancestors had in the diet, through generational adaptation….
Any modified or novel food, such as modern wheat, can have a significant change in our body: as our intestinal bacterial flora adapts to it, cramping, gas and distension can occur. Also, some parts of the modern wheat, such as gluten, can just be too hard to process for some people, and get glued on our intestinal linings…
This would not be an issue, if like ducks, we would not have so much wheat in our diet, but for us, this is a significant change in a significant part of our diet….
How can I check if I am wheat intolerant
You can check for antibodies reacting to specific wheat-components (such as anti-gliadin antibodies used to suspect celiac disease). You can also organise an intestinal biopsy to check the state of your guts. The simplest way is however to completely give up wheat and gluten for a minimum of 3 weeks and see if any chronic symptoms, you may have, improve – I have seen hay fever, allergies, fatigue, bloating, mood changes, chronic diarrhoea improving in that way in some patients. However, to clearly re-balance the guts, it can take up to 3 months of wheat-free food.
Beware, cheap wheat is found almost anywhere in processed food now, from processed meat, tomato sauces, soups and even pickled vegetables!
What can I do to re-introduce wheat
By experience, after removing it from the diet for some time, it is possible to provide a natural treatment plan to desensitise someone so that they can have some wheat sometime. Check here for my gluten-free and wheat-free suggestions.
Organic whole-wheat is usually easier to re-introduce first. Also old wheat grains such as Eikorn, Kamut, Khorasan or Spelt can be tried as well. Seeing a health therapist will actually help you to go back to optimal health much faster, and with confidence, by reducing the guess work.
Other learning from this story….
First, do not trust unknown producers to focus on quality or you health if they can save on costs.
And also do not always trust the health authorities’ advice: if we are told that white bread is unsafe to ducks, you may rightly wonder why health authorities ridicule food allergies and gluten-free diet as fads …. Remember that you are ultimately the sole person responsible for your health. Take any advice from public organisation or private companies with a pinch of salt!
Thank you and all the best.