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Interesting Information: Thinking About Ancient Grains

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Interesting Information:  May 1, 2014

Ancient Grains


I love grains.

Who doesn’t?

But I try not to eat very many of them because they cause all kinds of trouble–indigestion, stomach aches, creaky joints, and terrible diarrhea.  Clearly they were part of what went wrong with my system that caused me to start having allergic reactions to foods so that I was passing out in a split second whenever I encountered something my body decided was poison.  Clearly grains were a part of the “leaky gut” problem so prevalent in America today.

A few years back,  I had Entero Labs do a full fecal testing for gluten intolerance and genetic gluten issues.  I have a double copy of a “gluten intolerant” gene–which means that BOTH of my parents had it.  And, indeed, my dad died with dementia, probably caused by malabsorption issues–particularly of the B vitamins which are instrumental in mental health.

This genetic factor also means that ALL of my siblings have this gene.  One of my sisters had herself blood tested at a local hospital (which can often throw false negatives and depends on how the doctor orders what to be tested)–and she did show a gluten allergy.

She misses grains, too.

As noted on this blog before, grains are as addictive as crack cocaine (that’s only partly meant to be funny).  And my sister and I both slip in and out of eating “just a tiny bit” of grains.  She does not touch gluten.  I sometimes try.  But, the problem with gluten intolerance is that only the tiniest bit can cause inflammation and pain and digestive troubles once more.  And the other problem is that substituting other grains is not a great strategy either–as none of these grains is likely properly prepared.  Many are highly processed and useless in terms of nutrients.

So, with that in mind, I have to say I did enjoy Natalia Adarova’s  very interesting article in the Winter 2013 journal of The Weston A. Price Foundation, Wise Traditions:  “Northern Roots of the Ancient Grains” (32-36).

Adarova begins by discussing the ancient roots of humans’ consumption of grains in Russia/Eastern Europe and how powerfully represented the growing, harvesting, and cooking of grains figured in the local cultures.  For instance, Adarova notes that while  the commonly accepted dates for grain consumption by humans was 10,000 years agom evidence at the Kostenka paleolithic camp shows that “grains were already used in a very sophisticated manner some seventy thousand years ago as it is thought that Kostenka camp belongs to that period.”  But human consumption of grains predates even this particular camp:  “In fact, grains have probably been foraged since the dawn of Eurasian man, thought to appear three hundred to four hundred thousand years ago on the Eastern European plain–which interestingly coincides with the warmest interglacial period in the history of Earth” (33).

So, why are so many people–including me–having so much trouble with grains today?

I know already–and have written about these issues on this blog–that modern grain has been hybridized so that it contains new ingredients that mankind has not eaten before the early 1950s.  And, I know, too, from the work of Luise Light, which I have also written about here on this blog, that as a culture we eat way, way, way too many grains every day.  (Light’s panel of scientists recommend 2 to 3 servings, with 2 servings for women and 3 for very big men, and a serving being 1/2 cup, which translates to ONE piece of toast.)

But Adarova surfaces additional reasons why “modern” bread is a problem:

Modern bread sold at the stores can hardly be called “bread” at all.  A quickly risen product of the instant gratification age, made from genetically altered grains in order to yield higher and faster crops, grown in poor soils, stripped of any nutrients and full of harmful additives, is a far cry from the food that nurtured thousands of generations.

Ancient peoples fermented grains to remove phytic acid–which grains used to avoid being eaten and which prevent proper absorption of nutrients in humans:

Preparation of traditional Russian sourdough bread was a complicated art and science.  Dough had to be fermented only in oak barrels using a triple leavening process.  The dough was considered a living substance, almost a creature, hence during the leavening and baking it was prohibited to curse or act aggressively–an action thought to negatively affect the rising process.

Fermenting and sprouting both increase the nutrient load in the grain–and these ancient peoples used both methods.

And here’s new information I had not really considered before:  our modern diet of processed food does not properly feed our gut flora and fauna–which makes it really hard to digest bread/grains:

“An apple a day” is the new health recommendation picked up by the Russians, who in ancient ties normally reserved apples for cattle and horses in the bad harvest years; the older recommendation was “a glass of kefir a day.”  Besides genetics, which is an architectural blueprint, the second most important thing we inherit is our parents’ shared microflora.

Since ancient times Slavic people considered the abdomen as the epicenter of the mystery of life.  the word “abdomen” and “life” are synonyms in the Russian language.

Ancient Slavs knew that gut flora can either be your friend or your foe.  They knew that flora could be transferred and could quickly turn pathogenic if handled incorrectly.  Kissing strangers was prohibited and has never been used as a greeting.

Adarova notes that the “old rules” mandated that one eat animal fat with grains:  ” `You can not spoil kasha with too much gutter’ is an old Russian saying, hinting at the importance of this ingredient in grain consumption.  Russian sourdough was always consumed with a thick lalyer of butter, a widespread tradition in other parts of Europe as well.  Animal fats lubricate the gut protecting it from fiber damage while maximizing the absorption of fat-soluble nutrients” (36).

Finally Adarova points to the detoxifying effect of consuming clay and notes that a number of European bread recipes (Italy, Sweden) call for the addition of clay.  Apparently, ancient grain storage involved clay-lined and clay-sealed pits that kept grains viable for a hundred years.

Here’s the url if you want to read the whole of this very interesting article:   http://www.westonaprice.org/traditional-diets/northern-roots-of-the-ancient-grains


PS:  The nightly “news” I watched last night–to see our local weather–contained a story about how doctors were recommending MORE FIBER.  Please take a look at my Mainely Tipping Points essays on added fiber.  Too much fiber is a real problem and most of us get plenty of fiber already.  Too much fiber causes constipation…  And the types of fiber recommended are really hard on the body.