Thursday, April 28, 2011

One Man's Food is Another Man's Poison - Part II

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Brussel Sprouts and Squash

Over the past twenty years, I have learned a lot about food, cooking techniques, recipes development, and building on traditional culinary customs - many of which learned by observing and helping my grandmother, mother, and aunts in the kitchen. It's a fascinating world which got even more so during the past four months. In an earlier post, I mentioned going through a detox to restore digestive functionality. The detox is centered around eliminating foods that have a taxing effect on the digestive track. This dietary therapy allows the body to rid itself of toxins, and especially those naturally present in food, which can be problematic for people with sensitivities.

I always believed that good wholesome food affects health, well-being and overall mood. I cook that way and raise my kids that way. However, when the body's digestive track is impaired, food cannot be broken down to an absorbable form which the body can use to maintain health.


The small intestine is like the second brain of the body - made up of small fingerlike projections (villis and micovillis) that complete the digestion route and absorb the soluble nutrients into the bloodstream to be processed by the body. Chronic stress, food sensitivities, and the like weaken those projections and compromise the function of the intestinal wall, allowing partially broken down molecules to pass through to the bloodstream, causing a constant immune response. The compromised health of the lining also creates a really bad environment in the small intestine leading to an imbalance in the flora and that in turn leads to more and more issues like migraines, joint pains, fatigue, irritability, digestive problems, poor focus and many other autoimmune complications.

I have included a list of some good articles at the bottom which go into more details and are very helpful. Here's a quick summary of the most prominent toxins that have been found to be the most offensive. There are two main categories that are usually the cause of gut problems: Gluten and Lectin.

We've all read and heard a lot about gluten.  A protein found in wheat, barley, kamut, spelt and rye which is hard to completely digest.  It has the potential to damage the intestinal lining and/or pass through to the blood stream causing a cascade of health issues from arthritis to autoimmune diseases.   Over the past five decades, wheat has been hybridized several times to create a super grain with a higher protein (gluten) content in order to achieve better yielding crops and improve pest/pesticide resistance. This increase in gluten coupled with the daily high consumption of wheat products has bombarded our bodies with more gluten than ever before.  Gluten gives bread that wonderful fluffy texture and its elasticity.  It is also added to many commercial products like dressings, sauces, vegan proteins.  This leaves one heck of a digesting job for our body to undertake, leaving much of the gluten partially digested and able to cause major issues. Some researchers believe that gliadin (a lectin) in gluten is responsible for the offense.

As for lectins, there is a whole family of them.  They range from those with high toxicity that can cause death like the lectin in castor bean to some that have proven antioxidant activities.  Lectin is a sugar-binding protein, present in so many food and acts as the plant defense mechanism.  Lectin is widespread in nature and our ancestors, depending on location, had limited exposure in their diet.  Today, our food is global and we have access to everything under the sun, which increases our exposure to lectins dramatically.  If not properly prepared, lectin-containing foods have the potential to cause chronic gut symptoms and inflammatory responses throughout.

The following groups are the most prominent lectin-containing foods and likely to be problematic for some people:
 - Nightshade vegetables including tomatoes, tomatillos, potatoes, eggplants, bell
   peppers, chili peppers, and spices like paprika, cayenne, chili powder.
- All Grains and especially wheat, barley, rye, corn, and oats.
- Legumes including all beans, soy and peanut.
- Dairy (all milk products, yogurts and kefir).
- Eggs
- Nuts and seeds

Rice Bread Drop
This is what happened the other day when a drop of rice batter fell into the skillet :)

A Chinese proverb says it best: "You can abuse your body until age 35, and then it abuses you."  The good news is that the body is so adaptable and will regenerate health quickly when given a chance.  And toxins' offensive action can be reduced dramatically through various food preparation methods like sprouting grains, fermenting dough, soaking legumes overnight, also slow cooking with traditional methods which allows for the toxins to start breaking down prior to entering the body.  It's the way our grandmothers used to cook and nourish their families.  


Here is a list of a few articles and studies that will dive into the subject in more detail:
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14766592
http://www.krispin.com/lectin.html
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-mark-hyman/gluten-what-you-dont-know_b_379089.html
http://intelegen.com/nutrients/lectins_their_damaging_role.htm
http://glutenfreeworks.com/gluten-disorders/

*This is an opinion piece and is in no way intended to diagnose or treat any condition or disease.  Please consult with your physician prior to making changes to your diet. 

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