I, of all people, understand how difficult giving up bread, pasta, cereal, and other grains can be due to the “feel-good factor” that grains give us (because of the “opiate effects” these grains have on the brain). I hadn’t anticipated the strong reactions I would get after writing The Whole Grain Myth. One reader in particular caught my eye out of the sheer frustration she expressed with all of the contradictory advice out there on the Internet today. She couldn’t wrap her head around how everyone else in the world would tell her whole grains are necessary for “fiber” and that I could even imply not eating them would be in any way healthy.
Dear Detox Diva::
How can you even suggest we not eat whole grains? Is that not irresponsible as a nutritionist for you to tell us that whole grains are unhealthy when the general consensus by health care professionals, including famous doctors, tell us whole grains are necessary for good health? How are we supposed to get our fiber if we don’t eat grains? I am so frustrated with your site telling us things to the contrary of what popular opinion states. I have been to many nutritionists and every single one of them say I should be eating at least 5 servings a day if I want to have a healthy colon. What do you have to say for yourself? ~Y
I appreciate just how frustrating challenging conventional wisdom when it comes to nutrition can be. I totally get the fiber argument and have researched many many different sources on the necessity of dietary fiber. It really is a confusing topic even for professionals.
Unfortunately the whole grain debate is a rather old one but the more recent research done by Dr. Paul L. McNeil, cell biologist at the Medical College of Georgia can be summed up with his statement,”When you eat high-fiber foods, they bang up against the cells lining the gastrointestinal tract, rupturing their outer covering. What we are saying is this banging and tearing increases the level of lubricating mucus. It’s a good thing.” The premise is that by injuring the cell lining of the GI tract will force the body to be in a constant state of repair. It will form more mucous in the GI tract.
Hmmmm. Let me see…. So I am supposed to consistently rupture my gastrointestinal lining and form a whole lot of mucous to be healthy??? Banging and tearing?? Yeah, I don’t think so. It’s the same premise about damaging the collagen in the face with lasers and peels. The body will be forced to “repair” itself with collagen. The problem with that premise (and this includes the idea of banging and tearing up the intestinal tract) is that this kind of injury can often leave scar tissue and other unwanted factors in their wake. Oh, and according to ancient wisdom i.e Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda, mucous leads to stagnation in life energy. In fact, those with Chron’s Disease or Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) would argue that more mucous is precisely what they don’t need.
So let’s look at why people assume whole grains are important.
There’s the whole “prevention of colon cancer” thing. The problem is the studies are conflicting. According to the New England Journal of Medicine high fiber diets do not lower the risks of polyps which are often precursors to cancer. Here’s the thing. When these studies such as the one previously mentioned or the ones done by the Lancet and Harvard School of Medicine really don’t do much to break down fiber beyond “soluble” and “insoluble”. The fact is, studies such as the one done by the International Journal of Cancer, which broke down the sources of fiber, state that “vegetable” fiber had the most protective qualities against cancer versus cereal and even fruit. This study included those with a high prostate cancer risk factor but many other studies suggest the same goes for bowel cancer as well. A high fiber diet rich in vegetables rather than cereal grains are more protective against cancer and you have the added benefit of essential vitamins and minerals readily available due to the lack of anti-nutrients such as phytic acid, gluten, and lectins.
Fiber for the prevention or treatment of Diabetes is a big debate. Whole grains (and refined for that matter) are a source of insoluble fiber. When those with insulin resistance or metabolic syndrome are trying to avoid having it develop into Type II Diabetes, or those with Diabetes are trying to treat their disease with diet, they are told to eat fiber. Too many doctors and indeed dieticians and nutritionists fail to explain the different kinds of fiber.
Having the right fuel to prevent the body from going into a Diabetic state is key. When soluble fiber is eaten (soluble fiber sources being plant based sources such as vegetables, berries, apples, lentils, beans, and even oats) it slows the stomach from emptying (slows digestion due to the cellulose mostly) which prevents glucose from flooding the blood stream too quickly as would happen (theoretically) with a low fiber meal. This is an assumption that would only be useful if the meal was high glycemic. (Bread, sugar, pasta and little saturated fat or protein.) If, however, a meal included lots of veggies, healthy fats, good quality proteins and even a little fruit or fruit juice, not only would fiber not be needed because glucose release would be controlled at a steady pace, but the body would benefit from a myriad of essential minerals and vitamins.
Fiber lowers cholesterol. No it doesn’t. First of all, if you are eating good sources of healthy fats (coconut oil, grass-fed ghee, butter, pastured eggs, and grass-fed, wild, and/or free range animal proteins) in lieu of polyunsaturated fats (canola, sunflower, corn and other vegetable oils, an over abundance of nuts, feedlot and battery meat and chicken, and grains and legumes) lots of vegetables and a healthy amount of fruit, your body is manufacturing healthy amounts of cholesterol. Cholesterol is your friend!!! Cholesterol is the precursor pregnenolone which is responsible for making important sex hormones such as estrogen, testosterone, and cortisone. It is manufactured in the liver and your body needs both HDL (high density lipoprotein) and LDL (low density lipoprotein). Incidentally, these are essentially the same animal with HDL being transported out of your blood back to the liver where it was manufactured in the first place, and LDL is being transported out of the liver and into the blood. (Liken it to 0xygen and carbon dioxide respiration.) The problem happens when the tiniest of LDL particles (there are many different sizes of cholesterol molecules) embed into the body’s tissues (and blood vessels) and oxidize.
Many studies have indicated that a very high fiber full of-you guessed it-whole grains lower cholesterol levels. These studies do not go far enough to determine what type of cholesterol they lower and, as the body is one big macrocosm instead of a series of individual and independent systems, and we know that hormonal levels including insulin levels play into how cholesterol is utilized by the body, (and these studies are done mostly in vitro rather than in vivo), it is safe to assume that the fiber that would go to the greatest lengths to prevent the damage from high LDL would be vegetable fiber which contains a high amount of antioxidants, the very molecule that reduces the negative effects of oxidation which is the process that causes the damaging effects of LDL in the first place.
Because whole grains cause spikes in insulin levels which can be a key factor in oxidation and inflammation, it is safe to say that these studies would be largely anecdotal and not anything to take at face value.
High fiber diets are necessary for regular bowel movements. I cry foul on this logic. From my own experience when I was eating a high fiber diet I would ‘evacuate’ much less frequently than I do on a glycine/gelatin source high quality animal protein, vegetable, fruit, and healthy fats rich diet. I ‘go’ two to three times a day. I am not kidding. Like clockwork. When I ate a whole grain diet, I was lucky to go once every other day.
“How is that possible??”, you ask. Well, in reality my beauties, it is a healthy bacteria level that contributes to regularity. By “banging and tearing” up your GI tract and causing mucous formation your bacteria level really isn’t helping considering that well nourished “yeastie beasties” (gut bacteria) are healthy to the lower intestine, however, starved yeasts go in search of sugars in the upper intestine by implanting invasive “filaments” into the intestinal wall. If fiber is tearing up the intestinal wall constantly (and by fiber we are referring to insoluble fiber from cereal grains which contain anti-nutrients that cause additional microtearing in the gut leading to ‘leaky gut’ syndrome), this makes it easier for those filaments to permeate the gut lining and ‘spill’ yeasts and fungi into the blood stream where, if they aren’t destroyed by white blood cells, can lead to autoimmune responses and disease or, in extreme cases, death. I’m not being overly dramatic either.
On top of this, the use of fiber as a means of staying regular can become an addictive habit as the body ‘forgets’ how to work effectively using the bacteria in the gut, and will require more and more fiber to achieve an ever decreasing regularity of bowel movements. The use of senna and cascara root as a laxative as little as a few times over as many weeks is enough to cause an addiction by the gastrointestinal tract whereby peristalsis (bowel contractions) stops. If this is allowed to continue on this vein, bowel impaction can result. Most people assume that red meat consumption causes these issues and, to some degree, they would be correct, as most of the Standard American Diet consists of feedlot cattle fed on grain causing vast imbalances in Omega-6 to Omega-3 fatty acids by upwards of 20:1 which can also have an effect on keeping you regular. Omega-3 balance (the ultimate ratio is 3:1 in favor of Omega -3 to Omega-6) helps contribute to regularity by lubricating your bowel movements and increasing the transit time of foods through the digestive tract.
Bottom line. If you are eating a diet heavy on the vegetables, fruits, healthy fats, and high quality sources of protein, you are getting all the “fiber” you need without needing to damage and inflame your GI tract which can lead to IBS, Chron’s Disease, an inability to detoxify excess estrogen and other ‘used’ hormones, and completely disable your body’s ability to absorb and assimilate vitamins and minerals.
Still thinking I am irresponsible for offering another view??
If you are interested in learning the best way to eat for optimal health specifically tailored for you, your metabolic needs, health issues and goals, contact me directly to enquire about a private consultation.