August 22, 2011

Top 10 Surprising Facts About Wheat/Grains

By Tim Lochhead

#7 Why Do Opium When You Can Have Wheat

Continuing our countdown of the Top 10 Surprising Facts about Wheat/Grains.

So far we’ve learned the concept that all living things, plant or animal, have defensive or offensive mechanisms for survival.

Wheat and Grains have several offensive ones that work to disrupt predators (anyone who would eat the grains). We’ve looked at a variety of substances found in wheat and grains and how they wreak havoc on our digestive system; from causing intestinal damage to blocking nutrient absorption. We’ve also looked at the concept of insulin and effects of high amounts (like typical servings of wheat based products) including excess fat (especially around your midsection), increased risk for diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and skin issues to name a few.

If that weren’t bad enough, there are several pathways that make wheat and grains become addictive. So the vicious circle of cravings, crashes and ill health consequences keeps you sucked in. Ever get a crazy carb craving you can’t control? Or feel helpless as the eating pattern spirals on?

The three main addictive pathways are:

  • Blood sugar rollercoaster
  • Serotonin rollercoaster (interrelated with the first one)
  • Opiate receptor activity (acting like heroin or morphine)

Blood Sugar Rollercoaster

Rollercoasters are fun, right? Not when they contribute to a fatter waist or increase irritability.

From countdown #5 we talked about how high typical grains serving can lead to a high insulin spike. A big spike in blood sugar initiates the big surge in insulin to tell your body to store the sugars. Instead of keeping a nice steady blood sugar level it rises fast and then there is the inevitable crash. When blood sugar is too low your body wants to get it back up, so it craves carbs. Those same carbs that lead to the craving in the first place.

When blood sugar is cleared quickly this is also stressful to the body and you can elevate your own cortisol (catabolic, destructive hormone). When cortisol is present you can get edgy and irritable; thus furthering the carb cravings.

This isn’t the only mood related craving rollercoaster….

Serotonin Rollercoaster

Line up for another ride!

Serotonin is known as the “feel good” neurotransmitter. It’s associated with feelings of happiness, peacefulness and calmness. However, if this shoots up too high you’ll feel sluggish and lack mental clarity and focus – like a thick mental fog.

Tryptophan is the amino acid (a building block of protein) that leads to the release of serotonin. After a high starch carb meal (like a typical serving of wheat) amino acids are supposed to get shuttled into tissues; however, tryptophan is special and bypasses this (for you keeners it binds with albumin which isn’t affected by insulin). It crosses the blood-brain barrier in higher concentration than normal, causing a huge increase in serotonin.

Ever feel good while you’re eating “comfort” carbs and then sluggish and foggy shortly after?

And what goes up must come down! The serotonin crash is characterized by feelings you would expect with low serotonin (remember, the feel good neurotransmitter): irritability, anxiety, depression. So what do you do? You get more cravings to reach for carbs and the vicious cycle goes on.

Your Missing Link Health & Fitness Solutions offers solutions to keep us off of these rollercoasters and keep you in a stable blood sugar zone. You don’t have to be helpless and spiral out of control. Take the Power Back.

Still, there is even another brain related way wheat causes serious addiction (this one’s pretty cool).

Would You Deal Crack-Cocaine?

Wheat (really gluten containing wheats) contains opioid peptides[1] [2]. From countdown #1 the proteins in wheat do not get fully digested. As well, the peptides from gluten are similar to opiates and can bind with opiate receptors in the brain, mimicking the effects of drugs like morphine and heroin. Prolonged opiate exposure can lead to a dependency of the drug. Ever notice how much someone will fight and claw if you try to take away bread or pasta?

What happens if you stop using a drug? Characteristics of withdrawal include irritability, anxiety, and depression. Look familiar? And what’s your body’s response? You guessed it; cravings for you-know-what.

Roman rulers new that people wouldn’t revolt if they were entertained and fed bread.


Ditch the wheat, especially at breakfast, and Take the Power Back. Be in Control.

For example, try turkey sausage fried in butter (you read correctly; see, I’m not such a bad guy) served over some mixed greens and walnuts. Contact Tim@YourMissingLink .ca when you want health and fitness solutions that help you Take the Power Back and more importantly, get you the results you want.  

Stay tuned for our last 3 countdowns as we delve into some fun nutritional points.