Are Grains Really Dangerous to Our Health?

By Brane Žilavec, May 2015

The spiritual-scientific perspective on the issue about grains

We need to start with the recognition that the anti-grain health experts are obviously pointing to serious problems, but without real understanding of the underlying nature of the problems they are investigating. This is not such a surprise when one is aware that this is only possible with the help of the nutritional principles formulated on this website. Only with extension from a one-sided materialistic approach to health and nutrition can we find solutions and strategies for properly addressing the current health crisis. At the same time real understanding of the underlying reasons will prevent people from making dangerous mistakes in the life-long adoption of extreme elimination diets, such as the no-grain diet. We will now point out a few essential aspects which we need to be familiar with if we want to understand properly the issues addressed by the anti-grain proponents.

The Principle of Developing Immunity to Any Food We Consume

Although the spiritual-scientific explanation of the evolution of humanity differs in many important aspects with the scientific story of evolution, they both agree that the transition to the agricultural forms of societies was very significant. Spiritual scientists also admit that the transition to the consumption of grains was not without challenges. The key reason for these challenges is explained in FOOD AS A 'POISON'. This is the fact that every food is foreign to the human organism until we are capable to properly transform it. The process of digestion is in its basic nature the process of de-poisoning, even in the case of good quality natural foods. This means that people had to learn how to properly digest the grains – or any new type of food entering into traditional food cultures – similar to how we have to learn new skills in any other domain of our existence.

This, materialistic scientists don't know, and for that reason they came up with all kind of hypotheses which are after some time taken as fact in the absence of any other logical explanation. However, with the knowledge of the above nutritional principle many riddles of human nutrition become more understandable. For example, one can understand why human beings experience nowadays so many digestive problems for we have completely transformed the nature of our food by the means of modern food production. Our bodies are evidently struggling with de-poisoning of the foods which in many cases do not resemble any real natural food. These fake foods are really foreign in comparison to foods we have been eating throughout millennia before the onset of modern industrial food production. This explains the big increase of food intolerances in the recent decades, including intolerance to wheat and gluten.

But this is not yet the whole story of all negative results of such extremely low quality food. For in the case of gluten intolerance we have an example of weakened digestive forces as the cumulative result of decades long eating of fast food which "has been processed in such a way that you can wolf it down fast … chopped up and made ultrapalatable … Very appealing looking, very high pleasure in the food, very high caloric density. Rules out that stuff you have to chew … Refined food simply melts in the mouth." [1] It also doesn't need a lot of digestive activities in the stomach and the rest of the digestive tract before it is assimilated. Modern people are generally not enough aware that we need to properly exercise our digestive forces to be capable to digest food properly. This topic is addressed in the following two nutritional principles: FOOD AS SOURCE OF ENERGY and WHOLEFOOD vs REFINED FOOD.

When we are aware of the importance of our individual power of digestion, then we are not surprised to hear that many people are struggling with the digestion of proteins contained in gluten grains. If proteins are not broken down into amino acids, or if they contain foreign elements in them – as the result of genetic changes, or impact of artificial fertilisers, or any other factor which has the power to change the structure of the protein – then the human immune system recognises them as foreign substances and rightfully tries to eliminate them.

The Need for an Expanded Approach to Food Intolerances

Of course, there are many factors and influences involved in any emergence of any illness, but without proper understanding of the underlying causes is not possible to resolve the problems in a way which will not create new problems. We cannot understand the issue of food intolerances without the knowledge of the following fundamental principles of nutrition:

Of course, people suffering with coeliac disease need to avoid gluten grains. But this is a rescue diet which gives them time to make other life-style changes which can gradually strengthen their digestive and metabolic forces to such a degree that they may become capable again to consume sensible amounts of various real grains – that is heritage varieties, organic or biodynamic, whole, freshly-milled, and traditionally processed – including gluten grains. In Dangerous Grains is one short passage which gives hope that this can be done if only people would go there and explore this new territory without fear. When describing the method for gauging the body's reaction to gluten the authors write (italics mine): "The major pitfall of (the method of the) gluten challenge is that it is often undertaken by those who have been following a gluten-free diet as the result of their own research or on the advice of a health-care practitioner or friend… If the patient has already begun a gluten-free diet and the intestinal wall has thus been given a chance to heal, it can take as much as five years or more after returning to eating gluten before the intestinal damage characteristic of celiac disease will show up on a biopsy." [2

This means that we have the power to regenerate the intestinal wall and that it could be kept in good order with a suitable diet of the best quality foods available. But not with "returning to eating gluten" which means going back to the standard American diet! For the real healing should enable people to develop immunity to best quality gluten grains. However, such healing would work only with the help of the life-long elimination of pseudo-grains and all other kinds of junk food. If we don't enter upon this path and continue with the lifelong avoidance of gluten grains (or even all grains), we can never expect to overcome the modern crisis of food intolerances, including those related to grains. Here is the real choice!

More Hidden Effect of Mineral Fertilisers on Plant Proteins

From the content of this investigation it is evident that the health problems exposed by the anti-grain health experts are not caused by grains – or gluten grains, or gluten, or gliadin – but by regular consumption of extremely bad quality modern food. If we compare this modern diet with the average diet of old Egyptians with special focus on grains, we can notice that they were eating heritage (heirloom) varieties of wheat and barley, grown with natural methods, made into simple types of breads using freshly ground flours. This is in stark contrast to modern products made from grains, even those labelled 'wholegrain'. [3]

The members of the anti-grain movement are providing good evidence that eating modern grain products is highly dangerous, because of the presence of all those substances which should never became part of our food chain: pesticides, herbicides, glyphosates, GMOs, etc. To this we can add the negative health effects of eating highly processed grain products, striped of essential minerals, vitamins, and phytochemicals.

However, one thing which is even more important is the impact of the artificial mineral fertilizers on the quality of the gluten in the grains. Its impact is more hidden than all the rest, but this doesn't mean that it is less harmful. In recent times we have gained enough scientific evidence – also thanks to the books of anti-grain health experts – to take more seriously the insight provided by spiritual science almost a hundred years ago about the key reason behind the low quality of the modern grains:

"We must realize that plants are living things; they are not minerals, they are something alive. A plant comes to us out of the seed we put in the ground. The plant cannot flourish unless the soil itself is to some degree alive. And how do we make the soil alive? By manuring it properly. Yes, proper manuring is what will give us really good plant protein. We must remember that for long, long ages people have known that the right manure is what comes out of the horses' stalls, out of the cowshed and so on; the right manure is what comes off the farm itself. In recent times when everything has become materialistic, people have been saying: 'Look, we can do it much more easily by finding out what substances are in the manure and then extracting them from the mineral kingdom – mineral fertilizer!'

And you can see when one uses artificial mineral fertilizer, it is as if one just put minerals into the ground; then only the root becomes strong. Then we get from the plants the substance that helps to build up our bones. But we don't get a proper protein from the plants. And the plants, our grains, have suffered from lack of protein for a long time. The lack will become greater and greater unless people return to proper manuring… It's no use thinking that one can make fertilizer simply by combining substances that are present in cow manure. One must see clearly that cow manure does not come out of a chemist's laboratory but out of a laboratory that is far more scientific – it comes from the far, far more scientific laboratory inside the cow. And for this reason cow manure is the stuff that not only makes the roots of plants strong, but also works up powerfully into the crops and produces good, proper protein in the plants which makes us healthy and vigorous… So you see, when one speaks of nutrition one has to con­sider how foodstuffs are being cultivated. It is tremendously important." [4]

The medical professionals have so far – with few exceptions [5] – ignored or dismissed the importance of organic farming for the health of food and human beings. The modern medical schools still not teach nutrition due to a one-sided materialistic conception of the world, which cannot comprehend the essential nature of what is alive. The paradox of life is that we can find its manifestations everywhere, but its true nature is invisible. For that reason such an effect as the impact of mineral fertiliser on living protein cannot be easily seen by crude materialistic means. However, with advance of technology we can now detect changes in a living organism on the level of molecules. Now we have first evidence for the statement that artificial mineral fertilisers affect the protein structure in grain. Beside this we have more than enough evidence for those who want to see that proteins in modern grains are making people sick.

This doesn't mean that other influences are not important; but with the help of this insight we know where we need to search for the primary cause of the diminished quality of proteins in modern grains: in the use of artificial mineral fertilisers, the cornerstone of modern industrial farming! This was even acknowledged in Dangerous Grains, in the first book which exposed the impact of gluten grains on chronic illnesses. As part of their dietary recommendations the authors recommended to "eat whole, unprocessed, and organically grown food when possible … (because) organically grown food has fewer man-made chemicals and toxic metals, and often has a higher nutrient content, including improved protein quality." (italics mine) [6] Here we are at the core problem in relation to the consumption of the modern grains and their negative health effects. The problem is not in the grains but in the quality of all proteins found in them. Hard admission for humanity if we take into account that our present food system and food security is heavily dependent on artificial fertilizers.

Overcoming Exclusive Reliance on One or Two Grains

The spiritual-scientific perspective on the role of specific grains in various traditional cultures is based on another version of evolutionary theory than that accepted by science. It is not possible now to go into this topic, but we can point to one thing which is more or less congruent with the prevalent materialistic story. This is the very fact that the cultivation of grains marks a very significant transition from previous forms of society. These were either the tribes of hunter-gatherers, relying only on those foods found in nature, or nomadic tribes which had access also to meat and dairy products from domesticated animals. With the beginning of agriculture we have first settlements and the rise of the first modern civilisations, which have been slowly evolving towards modern forms of cultural life, legal agreements, and economic production. This means that without grains we would still live the life of nomadic tribes relying on the gifts of nature and animal husbandry – as we can still see in some remote parts of the world. People living in such communities had a much more respectful relationship to nature than we do; they had many forms of spiritual culture which we have almost forgotten. But what they lacked are the advantages of scientific and industrial development. Their tools were very primitive in comparison with what we have today. This means that there would be no modern medical science and technology without cultivation of grains; and no modern diagnostic tools which enable us to detect coeliac disease and other forms of gluten intolerances. The paradox of anti-grain health experts is that without emergence of grains in human evolution they would not have the means to prosecute grains as the main villains.

What was typical of those very remote times is that their food cultures were centred on cultivation of one type of grain. We can still see some echoes of this in China's reliance on rice. But grains didn't just have very important role in the past, they still have it today and they will have it in the future. Of course, not pseudo-grains, but real grains! The occurrence and existence of pseudo-grains is a kind of deviation in the normal evolutionary development of humanity. But this deviation can be overcome only if people will finally understand the true nature of their own being and the evolutionary role of nutrition, including the role of grains. This can be achieved by gradual assimilation of the fundamental principles of nutrition presented on this website.

While in the old cultural epoch, such as it was in old South American civilisations or the old Egyptian civilisation, it was common to eat just one or two, maybe three types of grains. In the later phases the cultivation of grains has spread out of their original places, as has happened in the case of maize after the discovery of America. With the emergence of the global food market we are now in the situation when many people can decide to eat any type of grain. However, if we look at the standard American diet we can observe the situation when the majority of grains people consume are wheat, maize, and rice. Such heavy dependence on a few types of grain, especially on wheat, is also contributing to the health problems with gluten intolerances and other health problems. This situation can be redeemed if people would integrate in their diet all seven major groups of grains which were in the past staple foods of different cultures. [7] These are rice, barley, millet, rye, oats, maize and wheat. These grains can be integrated in the weekly diet in two different manners:

The WEEKLY RHYTHM OF SEVEN GRAINS can significantly contribute to more balanced consumption of grains and thus minimise any disturbances which are due to one-sided reliance on one or two grains, such as wheat and maize, or rice and wheat, and similar. [8] However, this is not a type of diet; it is a general principle of balancing which can be used in all kinds of diets or individual eating-styles, except – of course – in those which eliminate grains.

NOTES

  1. David A. Kessler, The End of Overeating, Taking control of our insatiable appetite, Penguin Books, London, 2009
  2. James Braly, MD, Ron Hoggan, MA, Dangerous Grains, Why Gluten Cereal Grains May Be Hazardous to Your Health, Avery, New York, 2002
  3. In the books of the anti-grain health experts all wholegrain grain foods are regarded just as bad as refined ones. It is very likely that their references to wholegrain bread, or pasta, or any other grain product doesn't mean a simple, traditionally made product, but a modern industrial one. In fact, it is common practice that scientific researchers don't even mention what kind and what quality food has been used in their experiments; they use just general terms – such as sugar, white bread, whole bread, etc. – omitting the fact that we have a large range of different quality sugars, white breads, whole breads, etc.
  4. Rudolf Steiner, Nutrition, Rudolf Steiner Press, UK, 2008 (Dornach, 2.08.1924)
  5. One of them is Dr Mercola who promotes organic food and fights vigorously against GM foods and other bad practices in the modern food production.
  6. See note 2
  7. If you wonder why only seven grains, then the short answer is that we can put all known varieties of grains into seven groups comprising wheat, rice, barley, millet, rye, oats and maize. For example, millet, sorghum and teff are counted as one group, similarly wheat, spelt, einkorn, emmer and kamut belong to another group.
  8. We are talking here, of course, about one or two grains which are eaten regularly, not about occasional meals made with any other grain which for that reason cannot count as part of the staple food.