What bread actually does to your belly
In our Middle Eastern culture – and pretty much anywhere in the world – bread makes up a big part of our diet. But if we want to stay healthy and lean, bread needs to be avoided.
As a physician who believes strongly in making a very clear connection between the foods we eat and the state of our health, I put a great deal of effort into helping my clients understand the massive impact their nutritional choices have on their well-being.
A big part of this starts with educating on grains. Bread is made from grains, and anyone who reads my articles knows that I am anti-grain. Let’s take a look at why that is.
How the body reacts
Bread is of course just one example of a grain-based food, with so many of the daily staples in the Western diet also grain-based or simply grains themselves (three of the big ones include rice, cereals, and pasta). Grains, which are dry seeds from different types of grasses, include, among others, wheat, oats, and barley.
They sound harmless enough, right? I mean they come from nature, so what could the problem possibly be? Well, there’s many reasons why grains are bad for us. One of the more significant negative effects is caused by the phytic acid they contain, which will prevent our bodies from absorbing essential minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and iron. Those breads we eat are in fact one of the reasons osteoporosis is such a common problem today.
“From the beginning of our history humans have been hunters and gatherers. We were eating how we were genetically programmed to eat”
Grains also drive up blood glucose levels, which in turn leads to chronic insulin spikes – the main cause of silent inflammation. Silent inflammation is the number one killer of our time, and the main cause of diabetes, cardiovascular illnesses, cancer, Alzheimer’s, and many other life-altering or life-threatening diseases.
You may have also heard of leaky gut syndrome. We now know that all autoimmune disease is caused by leaky gut, which has its roots not only in dairy consumption, but also in grain consumption. Leaky gut is a condition whereby gaps occur in our intestinal membrane, allowing undigested food and bacteria to escape your gut and “leak” into your bloodstream. These undigested foods and bacteria then cross-react with different tissues to cause various autoimmune diseases.
And of course grains lead to obesity. Or “wheat belly,” or “beer belly” – or as I like to call it out here, “bread belly.” It is almost impossible to beat this one. Regular grain consumption (and regular does not even mean large amounts) leads to extra glucose floating around in the body, which, when not immediately used for energy, is stored as fat. Most people who consume bread each day will take in an extra 400 calories per day (and of the worst type of calories) writes Dr. William Davis in his book “Wheat Belly.”
We used to be healthy
From the beginning of our history humans have been hunters and gatherers. This meant we hunted animals to get our meats and we gathered veggies and fruits and seeds and nuts and eggs. Our diet was pure. We were eating how we were genetically programmed to eat. That is, we were fuelling our body instead of slowing it down and making it sick.
It was around 10,000 B.C., during the Agricultural Revolution, that we started growing grain seeds in a manner that allowed us to put aside our hunter-gatherer ways and feed large populations with ease. And just as that happened, we started getting sick. Research has revealed how rapidly our health changed since the start of the Agricultural Revolution. Those early farmers were not as healthy, nor did they live as long, as the hunters and gatherers they replaced.
It takes discipline
I always challenge my clients to go grain free, and yes, that does include avoiding whole grains as well. The argument among fans of whole grains is that these are healthier because they still contain the fibre and iron and other nutrients. But this is really about the lesser of two evils, and the “nutrient rich” argument for whole grains is negated by the general effect that these have on the body’s insulin response, which is similar to that of refined grains.
I know it is hard at first. Grain-based foods after all are so delicious in part because that blood glucose spike is followed by the brain releasing dopamine – a hormone and neurotransmitter that plays a major role in reward-motivated behavior. Drugs like heroin and nicotine all go to work on the dopamine centres of your brain in the same manner as grains do.
So of course our bodies “think” grains taste amazing. But cut back on grains – and eventually eliminate them – and you will be part of the minority that lives a much healthier and more enriched life. You will have more energy, increased sex drive, better moods, nicer skin and a generally younger appearance, less body fat and more muscle, and a longer lifespan with far less risk for chronic illness.
And on a final note we should make the tie in to diabetes, given what a massive problem it is in the UAE. I was on a health panel last week at Harvard Business School where it was stated that next year one in two people living in the UAE will have diabetes or pre-diabetes.
Having treated many type 2 diabetics with diet alone, I have seen how this often crippling disease can start to be reversed within days of eliminating bad foods such as sugar and grains. It is just one example among many that highlights how the practice of responsible healthcare must be tied to proper nutritional guidance. Without altering our diets, there is no cure for many of the more serious chronic diseases we are facing today.
Graham Simpson, MD is Chief Medical Officer and Founder of Intelligent Health, a preventive medical centre located in Jumeirah. Dubai. He graduated from the University of the Witwatersrand Medical School in Johannesburg, South Africa, and is board certified in Internal Medicine and Emergency Medicine. As a founding member of the American Holistic Medical Association (AHMA) Dr Simpson is also a licensed homeopath.