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I get a lot of questions about wheat and gluten. And although I go much deeper into this in my courses and programs, I thought I’d share a few of my thoughts here.

The following question was written in by a student in my Nourishment of the Soul 6-week telecourse:

Q: Thanks for your 7-Day Meal Guide – I love it! I noticed you use whole wheat in your sourdough recipe, isn’t wheat bad for you? Leiba A. via e-mail

Dear Leiba,

I’m so happy you’re enjoying my 7-Day Meal Guide!

In my macrobiotic training, I studied the properties of grains extensively.

Wheat is considered one of the most mineral-dense grains, able to absorb a wider range of minerals from the soil than any other grain in existence. It is also known to be the most nourishing grain for children, because according to Traditional Chinese Medicine as rooted in Kabbalah (we spoke about this in class), it’s considered an ideal food for human growth and development.

Wheat encourages growth on a physical, emotional, and spiritual level (we learn about this on Tu B’Shvat).

It is one of the very few foods attributed to directly calming and focusing the mind. And as one of the 7 blessings of the Land of Israel, wheat is characterized extensively in the Torah as a high-quality superfood loaded with nutrients for body, mind, and soul.

So what’s all the hoopla around wheat REALLY about?

There are three of factors causing confusion around this “miracle grain” from the Torah:

1) First, whole wheat goes rancid very quickly once it’s been ground into a flour. It should always be freshly-ground (you can do this using the high speed blender I recommend in my Resource Rolodex). Rancid whole wheat flour can lead to wheat allergies and a host of other health problems (go back to Module 3 about oxidation). Many people who are allergic to processed-flour products can actually thrive on pre-soaked organic whole berries (cooked), sprouted wheat, and cultured sourdough.

2) Second, modern wheat hybrids tend to be higher in gluten than the traditional wheat hybrids (gluten is the protein in wheat, spelt, kamut, oats, rye, barley, and sweet rice, that can be somewhat difficult to digest). But you need to know that gluten is not “bad” at all.

In macrobiotic cooking school we used to prepare “seitan” wheat-meat, and this is a prized protein-rich food throughout the East.

But in people with impaired digestion — most likely due to a lack of pancreatic enzymes from a lifetime of stress, sugar, pharmaceutical drugs, and refined, rancid foods — gluten can really lead to digestive trouble.

It’s a “chicken-before-the-egg” scenario, where a poor digestive environment most likely led to an inability to digest gluten – this then lead to a downward spiral of GI imbalance and further damage.

3) Third, overeating acid-forming foods such as dairy, eggs, heavy meats, as well as refined and rancid “foods” (not foods in my opinion) can cause inflammation and allergies to numerous nutrient-rich foods.

The traditional wheat described in the Torah was most likely Kamut.

Like all wheat, kamut (Triticum polonicum) is a glutenous grain. But in some tests, approximately two-thirds of those with wheat allergy had less or no allergy to kamut.

Two other glutenous grains that seem to be well-tolerated in gluten-sensitive individuals are spelt and oats. These grains do contain gluten, but as in the case of kamut, the structure of the grain seems to be more tolerable by allergy-prone individuals.

Sweet rice, rye, barley, and modern “whole wheat” contain substantial quantities of gluten and tend to cause problems in gluten-sensitive individuals – soaking, sprouting, and/or culturing the grain before preparation may reduce or even remove intolerances completely.

Celiacs and others with gluten intolerance should test for reactions with very small portions, and should first focus on healing the GI tract and building immunity before introducing glutenous grains to the diet.

QUESTION: Do you think these 3 factors may be impacting you or your family? I’d love to hear your tips or your challenges on overcoming gluten intolerance. Please share your comments below!