Friday, June 15, 2012

Grains go down with a fight.

   In January I went on a business trip with my boss to Arkansas and then to New York City. Dion had finally decided to start his Paleo journey and was of the opinion that this trip would be a good start to break away from breads and sugars. During the trip, we ate eggs and potatoes for breakfast, some kind of a salad for lunch and beef or chicken for dinner. There were few funny moments, when we refused the bread baskets offered to us in various resturants, and the  servers looked at us, as if we had devilish horns growing from our heads. One server was almost offended and looked at us really funny. She kept her composure and managed to get out an incredulous "reeeeaaaally". We were amused. As we looked around, the bread baskets were everywhere, patrons were consuming bread baskets with butter usually before their dinners arrived. Servers brought additional bread basket upon request. Favorite beverages like Coca Cola, and other soft drinks were being consumed with bread while waiting for the entrees to arrive. In addition to bread and the plethora of soft drinks, there was no shortage of large portions of appetizers present on many tables. As we looked around the restaurants, we can see an overweight population.

   In April, I made another trip to the East Coast to visit my family. My family had not seen me in couple of years so they were shocked to see me in my new emaciated state. My mother and father immediately told me that I looked sick and I am withering away. A typical response from concerned parents. Especially, my sub-continent parents who equate health with the girth of your waist. If you are fat then you must be doing well, financially and physically. I assured them that my weight is perfectly normal for my height and I have stopped losing weight. Few other family members threw religion at me (figuratively) by saying Holy Quran mentions grain several times, so there has to be a reason that grains are good for you and should be eaten. I did not have an immediate answer for them, faith and science came in direct conflict. I personally believe that there is nothing in the Holy Quran that is contradicted by science. I found the references in the Holy Quran and my initial perusal showed that everyone of those references had a negative connotation to grains. A more detailed post on this subject for my religious skeptics is in the works. In this post, once again from my understanding and explaining it in layman's terms, I would like to explain why grains are bad for your health and why your life would be so much better without grains?

   Let's understand this common phenomena about survival first. Everything in nature that lives creates defenses for its survival. If someone came up to you and wanted to physically harm you, you would launch some kind of a defense either by putting up a fight or taking a flight. Modern humans may often launch attacks with their fast rhetoric (aka, tongue lashing) as well, Rush Limbaugh is the first example that comes to my mind...:-) We observe this behavior in all animals. Plants are different type of life form. Since, plants are confined to a limited space and don't have the luxury to be mobile, their defense is more subtle, and potent in the form of some kind of a poison. Look at a rose bush with beautiful flowers, but also thorns to deter the animals from taking the flower. Many plants are just not sitting around waiting to be consumed and pooped out by us or other animals. Plants also must ensure their survival by producing a successful offspring. If they are consumed and pooped out then they can not survive.  The poisons contained in the plants harms the animal consuming it, and send a conditional message to the animal to not eat that plant in the future. There are hundreds of plants with various kind of poisonous or toxin attributes. Grains are almost at the top of those plants that deliver a potent poison chemical warfare to the the animals consuming it. The Problem with grains is that their reproductive system, wheat germ, is also contained in the section that is consumed. Grains are essentially wild prairie grasses. The wind blows the grains away and they get buried in the dirt. Once the season, temperature, and water is right the new grass is sprung and a new plant is born. In response to this vulnerability, the grains have developed bad chemicals like gluten, lectin, and phytates. The phytates contained in the grains binds to minerals like calcium, magnesium, and iron from being absorbed in the body. Both gluten and lectin are proteins, and human body has no idea how to digest them. These proteins are slightly different than animal proteins and contain prolamines. Prolamines are different types of proteins with viscous quality. When you soak corn, wheat, or oats the water turns slimy. The sliminess is caused by the prolamines. During the digestion process, lectin and gluten end up in our small intestine and cause gut irritation. In the small intestine, since prolamines are not broken down as animal proteins, they also end up escaping into our blood stream undigested. The body's immune system launches an attack against the foreign body protein and hence this condition leads to autoimmunity. The body's immune system is in hyper drive and is constantly working to fight off these foreign body proteins. Bottom line, grains are going down with a fierce fight. The starches from the grains are absorbed as sugars and raise insulin levels in the body. Insulin ends up storing glucose as glycogen and also promotes the storage of glycogen in the fat cells. The gluten and lectin end up causing irritation in our small intestine and escape in the body where immune system confuses them for disease and launches an attack against them. The phytates in grains rob the body of important nutrients and minerals. This is  an attack well planned from multiple fronts. The body has no choice but to develop chronic diseases like diabetes and chronic inflammation. All this trouble so we can add fiber to our diet and create a bulk to move our bowels. No thank you. I'll get my fiber from vegetables, fruits, and nuts. Bringing this back to my story, I had stomach issues all my life, no matter how much I exercised and ate right, I had gas and upset stomach. I just accepted that as a fact of life and moved on. Since dropping grains from my diet, the stomach issues have completely disappeared.

   You may ask the question then, why people are not dying if grains are that bad? I eat in moderation and I can work it out? Well, People are DYING! diseases like, obesity, diabetes, arthritis, upset stomach, gas, bloating, and occasional diarrhea are accepted by many people as simple facts of life. You hear more and more people developing colon and prostate cancers in their fifties and many end up dying in their sixties. I have friends who are diabetics, but they will not give up their dessert or white flour bread, because they have diabetes medicine like Glucophage. They eat their toast and then take a Glucophage pill to stabilize their blood sugar.  To them the quality of life is taking the pill to control their type II diabetes and still having a dessert. Few of my skeptic friends told me that grains eaten in moderation and coupled with exercise is perfectly normal. You can maintain your weight and stay healthy. Please refer to my earlier post titled "My Story". I ate in moderation and I exercised, my weight refused to go below 170 lbs. and my stomach problems continued. Eating grains in moderation is like saying eat mercury or some other form of poison but eat it in low doses to not kill you but always make you feel sick. Prolonged use of the low poisonous dose will end up taking a toll on your body and the user will end up developing some kind of a chronic disease. With grains gone from my life, my stomach issues have completely gone away and my gut has probably started the repair and the healing process caused by years of eating grains.

   Over this past weekend, I met another one of my skeptic friends and he reported that he stopped eating naans (an Indian flat bread eaten with every meal) and he has dropped about 5 lbs. in matter of few days. All it takes sometimes is giving up the breads for few days to see the advantages. He finally acknowledged that he might be on to something. One believer at a time...

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