Grain and Gut Bacteria: More to the Story?

smiling bacteria cartoonMy husband knows that I love to “geek out” on the science behind the topics pertinent to me and my family, so he sent me a real gem from Slashdot.  I’m guessing he thought I’d be particularly interested since the title contained “gut bacteria”, “toxins”, and “grain” in the same sentence.  As usual, he was right.

If you’ve read Dr. William Davis’s book, Wheat Belly, or Robb Wolf’s book, The Paleo Solution, you understand the issues that come with grain — but especially wheat — in the human diet.  Grains weren’t meant to be digested by mammals.  And although I understood some of the mechanisms that make grains problematic, this research shows yet another compelling reason to avoid grains.

I know, I know.  Many folks out there will say, “Humans have been eating grains for 10,000 years.” To them I say, “I can eat a cupcake wrapper that might taste good going down, but paper certainly isn’t good for me.”

For just one second, let’s ignore the debate about whether or not grains should be a part of the human diet.  Let’s ignore modern GMO crops that are sprayed with enough toxins to kill us hundreds of times over.  You all know where I stand on those issues.  For now, let’s limit our consideration to nothing more than the issue of mycotoxins and human gut microbes.  The implications are frightening!

For some background, plants like wheat, corn, and peanuts (a legume), are frequently contaminated by mold.  These molds produce toxins that are harmful to the plant, so the plant “hides” these dangerous substances with sugar (or sometimes a sulfate group).

This process of hiding toxins protects the plant, but the new research seems to indicate that humans are vulnerable.  Apparently, when a human eats one of these plants, gut microbes feed on the sugars that were masking the mycotoxins.  In doing that, they free those toxins in the digestive tract.  Now, I suppose this wouldn’t be much of a concern if our digestive tract were like a garden hose.  The problem is though, it’s not.  There are entirely too many mechanisms that would allow these toxins to enter our bloodstream, and for me, that explains a lot.

Think, for example, about kids whose autism symptoms are lessened by eliminating grains and legumes.  If folks are seeing good results “going Paleo”, then I can’t help but think it has something to do with these toxins which have known gastrointestinal and neurological side effects.  When you combine that with the fact that folks with autism tend to have compromised GI tracts AND particular sensitivity to toxins, a strong case can be made for the elimination of those foods.

These new findings also have me thinking about folks who suffer from candida.  Most definitely, candida suffers have “leaky gut” which gives toxins direct access to the bloodstream.  Combine that with the overgrowth of certain microbes in the gut flora, and you have a situation that can make someone really sick in no time flat.

I understand why folks in the U.S. are unwilling to face the reality that grain isn’t good for us.  Turning folks away from wheat and corn-based products poses a huge threat to Big Ag and Factory Food.  It’s almost impossible to find a processed food or supplement that doesn’t contain corn in some form.  And as I think about it, it’s no wonder that corn syrup is so bad for us.  Not only does the fructose appear to be an issue, but by isolating corn sugar, I can’t help but wonder if you may as well give someone a mycotoxin IV.

And lastly, I can’t help but wonder if these toxins themselves have a negative impact on our gut flora.  Not only do we encourage gut dysbiosis by eating too much sugar, too many chemicals, and not enough probiotic foods, but these mycotoxins might be directly weakening this crucial part of our immune system.

I don’t know that the mainstream is ready to face these implications yet, but it certainly sheds a new light on things for those of us who’re trying to heal ourselves and our families.  It’s just another piece of the puzzle that we have to consider, and it’s definitely not worth overlooking.

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