Trying to separate the wheat from the chaff

The latest word from the health field with Medicine 101

Modernization of the 20th Century has changed how people live. While we are grateful for the radio, television, telephone, motorized vehicles and computers, just to name a few, we are flung into an uncertain future of untested waters.

Modern day technology has made our world faster, and our people fatter.

Recently, I came across some signage that said “Eat Organic Food, or as your grandparents called it, Food.”

Though this may elicit a slight chuckle, it saddens me that real, wholesome, naturally organic food is considered a luxury.

And now, to make things more confusing, some things can be listed as organic but are in fact significantly altered genetically from nature’s original model.

Wheat is an example of this.

Many people are savvy enough now to understand that GMO foods are essentially untested products, have the potential to alter the organism consuming it, and are likely to carry chemical residues from their exposure to pesticides and herbicides.

While technically not GMO, what about hybridized crops?

Hybridization is a technique used to crossbreed plant strains in order to select certain traits.  Even though hybridization does not qualify as “genetic modification” (where genes are either inserted or deleted), it is still a form of genetic alteration.

Such alteration can have offspring plants produce proteins not seen in the parent plants.

Humans are not used to these new proteins and the effects are unknown.

The new strains of wheat are stockier, grow faster, resist drought and fungi, and yield more. All this sounds good, right? Too bad the so-called traditional breeding techniques sometimes use gamma irradiation and toxins like sodium azide.


Dr. William Davis, preventative cardiologist and author of Wheat Belly, argues that readily available wheat is not good for your health. Wheat contains a substance called amylopectin A. He says this molecule is easily converted into blood sugar, perhaps even better than table sugar. Simple carbohydrate consumption is notorious for a “roller coaster” pattern of blood sugar levels, which drives hunger and energy storage (aka weight gain). Heavy simple carbohydrate consumption is associated with elevated LDL formation (the bad cholesterol), and glycation, the process of making proteins sticky with sugars.  The more glycation: the more atherosclerosis.

Promoting obesity and cardiovascular disease, regular wheat consumption seems to be a recipe for disaster.

So what is the attraction? Wheat is yummy and addictive!

The National Institute of Health “showed that gluten-derived polypeptides can cross into the brain and bind to the brain’s opiate receptors.”  (, 2011).

Anything that binds to opioid receptors is reinforcing.  The pleasurable feelings associated with eating wheat drive us to do it again.

The Canadian Food Guide recommends six to eight servings of whole grains per day for a healthy diet. Even though the Canadian Food Guide has been recently modified, it might not be right for everyone. In particular, those who struggle with weight problems.

Glucose control and weight management tend to improve on a low simple carbohydrate diet.

Some even go simple carb free, at least for a while. A naturopathic dietary assessment can really be instrumental in clarifying misperceptions about food, especially when it comes to finding new ways of eating given new found wheat awareness.

Wheat might not be such a health obstacle if it were an old heritage form. Old fashioned (naturally organic) wheat might just be the perfect hearty whole grain we need.

Look for Red Fife, grown in Canada in the 1800s. Alas, the agricultural industry has virtually left this seed in the dust. If you find old heritage wheat in the health food store or at a farmer’s market, grab it. It is a rare commodity.





— Dr. Tara Macart owns Opti-Balance Naturopathic Medicine in Qualicum Beach with her husband Jonathan.



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