Did Grandma Eat Gluten?

by Kathy | Disclosure

Did Grandma Eat Gluten?

Take a trip thru the grocery store and you’ll find gluten-freelabels everywhere! It seems gluten-free eating has arrived and everyone is doing it. The guy in the cubicle next to you, his wife cured her allergies by going gluten-free. Your doctor suggested that you might consider it for weight loss. Your friend wants to go gluten-free but says they have an unreasoning addiction to bread that drives them eat entire loaves in the middle of the night ;-).

Well, call me a skeptic but I remember when the idea of eliminating wheat was deemed a bit fringe. After all wheat has been a staple of the human diet for millenia. I use traditional diets as my yardstick for determining what my diet should look like. After all, it’s gotten the human race this far hasn’t it? Our ancestors survived and thrived on a traditional diet long enough to produce us!

I receive questions about gluten and breads very often and frankly I’m concerned about all those who are new to the world of real food being confused by the avalanche of negative press gluten containing products and starches in general are receiving. So let me just state as clearly as I can that restrictive diets like the gluten-free diet are not traditional! Now, I understand that there are many with genuine medical issues surrounding gluten. This post doesn’t address their situation at all. Instead I’m talking about a very modern tendency to restrict entire food groups for a lifetime based on very flimsy evidence or even worse fashion. I view this as a dangerous practice and what’s more, your Grandma would have too.

Grandma Ate Gluten and Plenty of It!

Yes, she did eat gluten. Your great grandma most likely even made her own bread every week developing the gluten with her own two hands, forming the dough into loaves and baking them in a wood fired oven. These loaves were made with a sourdough starter that she maintained and shared amongst friends. By the time the loaves went into the oven they were well fermented to get a good rise and flavor and to reduce the anti-nutrients present in the grains. This whole process was sacrosanct in Granny’s world. The dictionary defines sacrosanct as “Regarded as too important or valuable to be interfered with.” Bread making was serious business! If you could be transported back in time to Granny’s kitchen she’d offer you bread and would be pretty horrified if you refused it. She would have seen it as high foolishness on your part.

The Hype Implies that Gluten is an Unnatural Additive

Gluten is entirely natural to grains with bread grains having the highest percentages. The rise and texture of doughs is greatly affected by gluten content so some commercial bakeries do indeed add even more gluten to their breads than would naturally be present. This practice requires the ability to separate gluten and is therefore modern. The presence of gluten in grain-based foods though is totally traditional.

The Hype Implies that High-Gluten Hybridized Wheat is Basically GMO

Modern wheat is hybridized wheat. Virtually all of the food supply is grown from hybrid seeds. Peppers, carrots, lettuce, beans and of course wheat found in the supermarket or farmers market are nearly 100% hybrid varieties of plants. While there may be advantages in flavor and just sheer variety in the pre-hybridized heirloom seeds no one is eating these plants in large quantities. We are all eating hybrids every day.

Man has been influencing the breeding of plants for centuries. Hybrids have been around for at least a couple hundred years and represent a more sophisticated kind of tinkering than what was done before. Hybrids became popular with farmers about 100 years ago during Granny’s time. They are produced by cross-pollinating varieties to produce a new variety with desired characteristics. It does NOT involve splicing of genes across species or any of the other Dr. Frankenstein horror show science genetically modified foods are subject to. Barring possible contamination from Monsanto’s GMO wheat experiments nowhere in the world is the wheat supply grown from GMO seeds.

You might have read the argument that since modern hybridized wheat contains considerably more gluten than ancient varieties that we modern folk should avoid it like the plague. Modern wheat does contain more gluten than old varieties, that isn’t in dispute. But does it follow that we should completely cut out this staple of traditional diets completely as a result? I don’t think so. If you feel it’s a priority in your budget to ensure your grains are as old school as possible you could consider spelt or einkorn wheat instead of the more modern hybrids. There are options other than elimination.

Many Arguments Against Gluten are Really Arguments Against Eating Processed Foods

Many of the arguments against modern wheat go on at length about modern baking methods, quick rise yeasts and dough conditioners for example. These are really not arguments against wheat or gluten but are instead arguments against eating processed foods. We all know that commercial bakeries use such things and more, like preservatives to keep the bread fresher longer, dyes and even artificial flavorings. If you want to eat breads make them at home using traditional methods or find yourself a good local bakery. Baking bread is one of those scary to do household tasks that once you try it you wonder why it was so intimidating! If you’re following The Granny Plan you could make it a kitchen project to work on over a bit of time.

What If You Are Having Trouble Digesting Grains?

Many people find that proper preparation of gluten containing flours makes them completely digestible. Really, rarely does anyone in our culture have a chance to eat properly prepared grains. It’s worth a trial run if you’re experiencing trouble. If that doesn’t help addressing problems with bad gut flora helps many to eat gluten containing foods without issues. Some of the protocols for addressing gut dysbiosis involve eliminating grains for a predetermined time while rebuilding the gut. Also worth a trial. I’d encourage everyone to give it much serious consideration before deciding to cut gluten long-term though. Like Granny it pains me to see people cut this major traditional staple out of their diet forever.

Are you on a gluten-free diet? What made you decide on it? Have you reversed gluten sensitivity in your own life?

Photo Credit: Stacey Spensley.

This post is shared at Homestead Barn Hop, Fat Tuesday, Real Food Wednesday and Pennywise Platter.

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Talk With Us!

Granny LOVES a great discussion! A thoughtful, in-depth look from all angles benefits us all. If you disagree let us know! But please remember you're in Granny's house and be respectful of that. If you wouldn't say it in your Grandma's hearing please don't say it here! No name-calling or foul language. Those comments that don't respect Granny's home will be deleted.

Susan F. June 9, 2013 at 7:58 pm

I agree with everything you just said…but I don’t know how to “properly prepare grains”??? I am currently in process of healing my gut. Thanks for any help you can give me!

Kathy June 9, 2013 at 9:57 pm

Hi Susan … yes, I should include some links on preparing grains :) Basically you can soak them overnight in an acid medium like whey or apple cider vinegar, or you can sprout the grains prior to grinding to flour, or you can ferment the grains using a sourdough culture. Any of these methods will reduce the anti-nutrients in the grains that make them hard to digest. Personally, I prefer the sourdough method. Using a flour without a lot of bran in it to begin with will reduce the amount of phytates right off the bat. You can read more about it at:

Are Whole Grain Flours Traditional?
Why Soak and Sprout Grains?
Some properly prepared grain recipes

Rachel June 10, 2013 at 9:51 am

As you said, there are people that just like to jump on diet bandwagons. I think for most people coming off the Standard American Diet, eliminating gluten (although more generally grains versus gluten specifically) can be a good thing short-term to help heal their digestive system (along with many other things). Gluten isn’t the end-all-do-all enemy, it’s mainly processed foods and finding individual food issues. A short elimination can help reduce inflammation and get the gut working properly again so when properly prepared grains are reintroduced they can be digested and utilized properly. It makes sense that when most people begin avoiding gluten they begin to feel better. It’s not just the gluten though, it’s the processed foods that also get cut out because they contain gluten and it’s the opportunity their guts now have to heal.

Kathy June 10, 2013 at 11:48 am

I agree whole-heartedly Rachel that it’s mostly the elimination of processed foods that creates that immediate improvement most people see when the change their diet. We see it when people go veg or vegan, or raw, or dairy-free too. Some of this may be allergy but the simpler explanation is just the improvement from eliminating really toxic stuff like hydrogenated oils, artificial sweeteners and additives of all kinds. “The simplest explaination that is consistent with the facts” should be ruled out first – Occam’s razor and all.

Christi June 10, 2013 at 4:53 pm

What a great post!! I agree with 100% of what you said here.
I grind my own wheat to make our bread and other stuff at home. I have been doing it for years! I have recently switched to Certified Chemical Free grain when I bake. Or organic grain.
Anyway, great post!

Lisa June 11, 2013 at 10:45 am

Great post! I would like to add that even after nearly a year of eating a WAP diet (grass-fed meat, organic produce and dairy, lots of good fats, hardly any processed food, and no soy) and properly preparing most of our grains, I was seeing no improvement in some digestive and skin issues I’d had for about a decade. I cut out all grains, and within two weeks, I saw a significant improvement. (Prior to this, I had been through allergy testing two or three times, which turned up nothing, but I was certain it was a food sensitivity.) I had one day where I completely fell off the wagon and ate grains at every meal, and the next day I was having problems again. So, though I think the ideal is to be able to eat the way you stated in this post, I think there are many of us who have compromised immune systems and digestive problems and may need to cut out grains entirely until we heal. I think it’s also important to distinguish between gluten and grains…I’ve read books/articles referencing studies that say people on a gluten-free diet basically never heal, while those who cut out all grains can heal completely in time.

Anyway, long way of saying that I agree with you and can’t wait till the day I am back in a position to be able to eat grains without having problems. :)

Laurel June 11, 2013 at 1:12 pm

Lisa – Technically speaking, all grains contain gluten. But the most dangerous kind are the gliadins/glutenins in wheat, rye and barley. That is why some people have to eliminate all grains, and some people just need to eliminate those three. Here’s a link that explains more:

Laurel June 11, 2013 at 12:04 pm

I usually agree with everything you say but I’m sorry you wrote this post. Many thousands of people are suffering unnecesarily because they HAVEN’T tried to eliminate gluten, or even considered it. Posts like this only discourage them from trying it. You will never know, unless you try it, whether it will help you or not. No amount of testing can tell you definitively (unless you are full-blown celiac of course).

My story: Over two years ago I developed neurological impairments and gut issues and auto-immune issues. My doctor was hopeless and clueless. It was only because I became my own advocate and paid for testing out of my pocket that I discovered my gluten intolerance. I was deathly sick! I now have a handicapped hangtag for my car. Prior to this I’d eaten wheat my whole life, and been a member of WAPF for 6 years and had been making my own sourdough from freshly ground wheat.

Two years down the road now and I’ve been gluten-free for 18+ months and the neurological issues are very very very slowly abating. Don’t discourage people from trying a gluten-free diet.

Education is the answer. You wouldn’t believe the ignorance out there. One waitress I spoke to didn’t even know that white flour comes from wheat!

Bottom line: gluten nearly killed me.

Gudrun B June 11, 2013 at 12:22 pm

Laurel, i feel for you!
i think though the gist of this writing was more against the commercial craze of gluten free than to say you do not need to do this – but then i am not in your shoes nor on your side of the fence where gluten has affected me like it did you. you are very correct: education is what is needed! instead we have medical people who do not understand and just write prescriptions, we have bombardment of advertising and shelves full of junk poor school meals and majorly lack education when it comes to healthy food – though you thought you did it right…. bottom line we are not all made the same! what one person lives well on for 80 years will hurt another
i am sorry you are on of the other! i am happy you found what made you sick and yes trial and error and elimination diet when things are not right… i wish you much and complete success in your healing!!!

Kathy June 11, 2013 at 12:35 pm

Hi Laurel … I don’t want to discourage people who are ill and have reason to believe gluten or grains is contributing to their illness from giving an elimination diet a trial run. I do want to discourage the quickly becoming common belief that gluten is bad for everyone and therefore everyone should avoid it. I’m glad you’ve found something that is helping to relieve your symptoms :-). I too know what it is to suffer from inflammation and it isn’t pretty. I’ve found help too but it wasn’t from an elimination diet. {{ Hugs }}

Laurel June 11, 2013 at 12:54 pm

Ok, but my point is that “people who are ill” also includes people who have low-grade problems who might not consider themselves “ill”, or think that their “illness” couldn’t possibly be caused by something that Granny ate. Any discouragement given to these folks can put them off trying the diet.

Also, I’m very upset by people calling this a big ole fad. Like my sister-in-law who thinks that it’s OK to slip me a little gluten at her house because obviously I don’t know what I’m talking about. These people are scary to those of us who are made very sick by the smallest amount of glutonium.

Many doctors are now waking up to what a huge issue this is and are encouraging ALL of their patients to at least try it. If those patients don’t see any improvement, don’t worry, they’ll be back to eating plenty of bread in no time. But for the many thousands who discover to their amazement that gluten is worsening their auto-immune disease, their eczema, their psoriasis, their gut or joint issues (just to mention a few) they will be sold for life like me.

It’s not easy avoiding gluten so don’t think that people who do are just messing around for the yuks.

Rick Nielson June 11, 2013 at 4:59 pm

Yes exactly, I agree. How do you know Granny era people didn’t have subtle wheat induced maladies? My grandfather suffered from severe dementia at the end of his life. He ate bread like crazy. A breadaholic as I remember. Homemade bread. Don’t buy into this, wheat is not a good food choice.

Andrea October 11, 2014 at 12:56 pm

Every body is different. I know so many people that when they went off of gluten, many chronic problems cleared up. Grandma’s wheat was a lot different than today’s. In Europe the “old” wheat is used and people who can’t eat wheat here in the U.S. can eat it over there. I’d say that’s a problem with the “new” wheat and the way our bodies react to it.

Andrea October 11, 2014 at 1:11 pm
Kathy October 11, 2014 at 1:45 pm

Hi Andrea … Let me direct you to the section of the post with the title “The Hype Implies that High-Gluten Hybridized Wheat is Basically GMO” which deals with this argument on the difference between modern and older varieties of wheat. Of course, the decision on which way to go is entirely up to the individual. Personally I think meddling with our cultural foodway by removing a large source of day-to-day nutrition to avoid something that *might* be an issue is a mistake. But hey, that’s me ;-).

Rick Nielson June 11, 2013 at 12:06 pm

Gluten is way more prevalent and consumed much more often now than before because of processing. If the only source of wheat gluten we consumed was from homemade bread, no there probably wouldn’t be a problem. Your article is laughable. You need to come to town once or twice and see what the city folk are munchin-0n 24/7 Granny.

Gudrun B June 11, 2013 at 12:24 pm

oh oh, i guess i need to get to town too :)
what are city folk munchin’ on???

Kathy June 11, 2013 at 12:39 pm

Hey Rick … Glad I was able to make you laugh 😉 … We could all use more laughter in our days. Yes, there is more gluten in the diets of those eating processed foods … did ya read the post? Mainly the section about “Many Arguments Against Gluten are Really Arguments Against Eating Processed Foods” part …

Vonnie July 17, 2013 at 11:36 am

I love your response to Rick (which rhymes with, oh, never mind)! I notice that many who have joined the gluten-free cult are getting to be as obnoxious as vegans. Not all, of course. Most people who follow a particular diet that has helped them are respectful of the choices of others and realize that what works for them might not work for everyone. I don’t mind people who say, “hey, I quit eating X and it totally changed my life. Try not eating X for awhile, too, and see if it helps you.” What I don’t like is the d-bag approach where people say, “X IS BAD. IT WAS ALWAYS BAD AND IT WILL ALWAYS BE BAD. X WAS NEVER GOOD. ALL WHO APPROVE OF X ARE EVIL AND MUST BE SILENCED.” That kind of thing brings out my inner Bill Lumbergh and I just want to sip my coffee and say, “Yeah, I’m gonna need you to be a little less preachy. If you could do that, that would be great.”

Kathy July 17, 2013 at 1:32 pm

Hi Vonnie … Agree it’s important to be respectful of others point of view in these discussions. On that note I think I need to post a comment policy. Luv ya Vonnie but the opening tone of this comment made me cringe a bit. It’s so easy to go over the edge in the heat of battle so to speak. Easy for me too sometimes. I have a sarcastic side as you could guess from my comment. I think a policy can help us all work out our differences and agree to disagree when appropriate.

Judith July 18, 2013 at 9:18 am

As a vegan who is also celiac I find Vonnie’s comment offensive. To lump all vegans together is small minded and it is obnoxious! As far as gluten intolerance, while it may seem that everyone is jumping on the band wagon, what is really going on is that more people are realising that they are intolerant and/or allergic to gluten.

One in three people may be sensitive to gluten or have a full blown allergy to it and at this point 97% are as yet undiagnosed. My mother did not find out she was celiac until she was 75! If you are of Celtic ancestry (Scottish, Irish, British, Welsh) then you are much more likely to suffer from this allergy. And while you may not suffer from it today, in a heartbeat your body can suddenly decide that you cannot eat gluten anymore.

This problem has been around for generations, it is not new and not some fad. My grandmother had a lot of problems eating gluten but it was something that was not diagnosed because no one knew about it 100 years ago. It is not some new fad, it is a major health concern that has been ignored for a very long time and people are only now realising just how common this allergy to gluten is.

To make matters worse this allergy causes one to become malnourished because the digestive system can no longer function properly. This allergy isn’t just a matter of runny itchy eyes and wheezing, this allergy can make you so sick and if left undiagnosed can lead to stomach cancer.

It is unbelievable that people think it is a fad or worse, as one poster said, when others try to sneak gluten into your food. What I don’t understand is why people who do eat gluten seem to think that so many people who say they cannot eat it must be faking it. If someone told you they had an allergy to nuts would you roll your eyes and think they were jumping on the fad bandwagon? Why do you get so upset by people not eating gluten, why does that threaten you so much that you must disparage them?

Some people seem to think, well we have been eating this for centuries so it must be alright. That is so backward in thinking. We have been eating sugar for ages too but does that mean it is good for you? We have also been eating pesticides for decades on store bought food but do you think that also means that it is good for us? The “test of time” thinking is in error, just because something has been used for a very long time does not mean it is a good thing.

There are many more of you who are allergic to gluten that realise it, and if you are bothered now by so many people going gluten free just wait a few years because “you ain’t seen nothing yet” so try not to get so bothered when others say they are gluten free. If you would only drop your holier than thou attitude and have a bit of compassion for those who are not like you, the world would be a better place.

colleen June 11, 2013 at 12:07 pm

while the grains we eat today are not GMO, they are HIGHLY hybridized and the wheat of today contains 90% more gluten than the wheat of the 1930’s (when my Grandma was around) – I know many reasons for this (heartier, shorter height, easier to grow/harvest, pest & disease resistance, etc.) but the rise in # of celiac & wheat sensitivities shows that any number of things can be taken in a small amount but when you mega dose them, symptoms or issues may start to occur that wouldn’t have shown up otherwise. I avoid processed foods as much as possible and eat an organic gluten free bread. once I stopped with gluten, it took about 3 weeks, issues I had with joint pain (mostly my knees & ankles after a long day on my feet) more or less disappeared … when I added it back, it took less than 3 days for the pain to come back. It was really bizarre and totally not what I expected! More or less made me a believer … so am sticking with a few grains but not gluten and after having read some of the things on Weston-Price, am thinking of the properly prepared grains (as you talk about here) might be worth the try. Thanks for the article!

Kathy June 11, 2013 at 12:56 pm

Hi Colleen … I’ve read the statistic on the increase in gluten and yes there is lots of evidence it has increased in hybridized varieties, in fact many varieties were bred just for this reason. I was unable to confirm the 90% higher number quoted in many places around the web though. I believe it originated in the book “Wheat Belly”. Saying that the rise in celiac is definitely caused by this increase is a stretch though. There have been so many other disastrous changes in the modern diet so it would be difficult to isolate. It’s a reasonable possible explanation though. My money is on the devastation of our gut flora myself. I’m glad you’ve found a way to keep your joint pain in check and I hope your experiments with soaked, sprouted and fermented grains go well.

Gudrun B June 11, 2013 at 12:13 pm

Kathy, excellent! very well put together! if any thing you could have emphasized the diet fad a bit more – in my view it is just another thing “every one is doing now” “the in thing” like back in the days of “hot pants” AND advertising is not shy on exploiting it, just like most diet things.

i have avoided the regular wheat things from the store for many years, then as the kids grew a bit older kind of gave in and bought bread
yes, i used to bake all our bread with half rye half wheat, because i could not stand the so-called bread when i moved here; that white fluffy, spongy stuff was not bread to me, it was a once in a great while treat to make toast on a Sunday morning; the bread i grew up on had substance! unlike the white fluff of which i could eat half a loaf to feel satiated, “real” bread only took 2 slices and i was full – long story short: the more refined the less food value…..
sort of: we can usually handle a little “poison” here and there, but we were bombarding our bodies with toxic empty food that tasted good (the deceived taste buds told us)
Diabetes used to be a disease of the wealthy, because they were the only ones who could afford sugar and refined flours
when i grew up breakfast was bread or oatmeal, no processed flakes with fancy colors and a touch of honey; in less than 25 years that all changed; faster is better we were told and it got us to jump from one diet to the next;
back to Granny’s basics!

Laurel June 11, 2013 at 1:04 pm

Gundrun – Everyone needs to try going gluten-free at least once in their life. Yes, everyone has little health issues that may not amount to much, but when they suddenly disappear due to a gluten-free diet, they are very glad they are gone and wouldn’t invite them back.

And please don’t call it a fad because it just encourages people to not take us seriously! This is deadly serious business. Just ask anyone who has celiac disease. If enough people go around calling it a fad it provides a hint of permission for waiters/waitresses to NOT be careful with our food orders. Please think about this. What you say can encourage restaurant workers to be careless enough to make someone sick.

When I have to eat out now it is a dreaded chore to speak to the waiter/waitress. Most of them have no idea whatsoever what gluten is. It’s an uphill climb for anyone with food allergies so when I hear someone call it a ‘fad’ I just about want to cry.

Kathy June 11, 2013 at 1:11 pm

I recently read a post from a celiac sufferer that was very upset over the popularity of gluten-free weight loss diets for just this reason. Wish I could find it to share … trouble is many are doing it as a fad and they are making life harder and more dangerous for those with serious issues with gluten.

Kathy June 11, 2013 at 5:25 pm

I didn’t find the post I was thinking of but I did find this one from GlutenDude:


The basic gist is that popularizing gluten-free diets is encouraging people in general to take the problem of serious gluten reactions less seriously.

judith July 18, 2013 at 9:25 am

Personally, as someone who is celiac, I love the fact that gluten-free diets are becoming so popular! In no way does that mean others take my allergy less seriously, but what it does mean is that suddenly people actually know what celiac means! And it means more products and more choice for those of us who cannot eat gluten. It is nonsense to think that by keeping it in the dark and relatively unknown that it makes it more serious. Ridiculous!

Judith July 18, 2013 at 9:46 am

Personally, as someone who is celiac, I love the fact that gluten-free diets are becoming so popular! In no way does that mean others take my allergy less seriously, but what it does mean is that suddenly people actually know what celiac means! And it means more products and more choice for those of us who cannot eat gluten. It is nonsense to think that by keeping it in the dark and relatively unknown that it makes it more serious. Ridiculous!

Kissiah Aiken June 11, 2013 at 12:42 pm

Last August I got really sick. I was in bed for a month with what the doctor said was typhus most probably contracted while I was at the Gulf Coast on vacation. There were swarms of mosquitoes right out of a horror movie and it rained the entire week we were there. I was put on antibiotics, two different kinds. Since then I’ve gotten eczema to one degree or another and lately it’s bloomed to new levels all over my body and the itch alone is enough to drive a person mad, not to mention not sleeping because of it. I got a staph infection and have been on several different antibiotics, diflucan and steroids as well as steroid creams. I decided to cut out dairy, wheat and gluten as well as nightshade plants and nuts to see if I had developed a sensitivity to these things. It’s been less than a week and the eczema is clearing up already.

Kathy June 11, 2013 at 1:05 pm

Hi Kissiah … I used to live near the Gulf Coast so I know what you mean about the mosquitoes! All the medications you had while you were sick are extremely negative for gut flora … I’ve taken all of them too in the past for allergy, hives, asthma, sinusitis, etc. Anyone who’s been thru this really needs to work on building up good gut flora with probiotics and lots of good fermented foods … I’m still working on it myself :) I’ve also found help from castor oil which I hope to write a post on soon. Sounds like avoiding gluten, dairy and nightshade is just the ticket for you while you’re recovering. I hope you find you can eat them all again without trouble at some future date. {{ hugs }}

Lynn June 11, 2013 at 1:24 pm

Ten years ago our family made the move from city to country, and began a farm that raises and sells grass fed meats (chicken, turkey, pork, beef), and pastured poultry eggs. I sell baked goods, too, mostly what our family likes and consumes. My mother is very affected by Rheumatoid arthritis and not too long ago I realized that I have some of her symptoms. After reading an article by Dr. Mercola I decided to take his advice and eliminate all processed sugar, as much natural sugar as I could and grains from my diet. It’s only been a week, but we’ll see if it has any effect on my symptoms. I’m sure just eliminating the sugar alone would help, but I want to follow the advice given and see what it does. I also want to work on developing bakery items I would like to eat myself, such as sourdough, soaked and sprouted grain items. It’s a challenge to find tried and true recipes. I also want to work on gluten free products, since some of our customers are asking for them.

Laurel June 11, 2013 at 1:42 pm

Lynn – Tried and true recipes can probably be found at http://www.glutenfreeonashoestring.com by Nicole Hunn. She’s got two books out and a bread book of hers will soon be published. I believe she’s got a sourdough recipe. She’s got some youtubes out there too.

Lynn June 12, 2013 at 6:23 pm

Thanks, I’ll check out the website. Haven’t heard of that one before.

Carmen June 11, 2013 at 4:10 pm

I really like your blog and I agree with so much of what you write. I also have learned from your posts–however, in this instance, I think you completely missed the boat. There are so many people with allergies/inflammation/ IBS, psych & neuro disorders that have been given a whole new lease on life by giving up Gluten containing foods. It’s a spectrum of course, from those who cannot tolerate any Gluten at all to those who simply give up wheat, oats, etc and feel tremendously better. Please see the book “Wheat Belly” and refer to this article
…you wouldn’t want to put people off from trying something that can be a total life changer :)
Keep up the good work!

Kathy June 11, 2013 at 4:22 pm

Hi Carmen … glad you like the blog :-)

I’m not sure how noting that gluten is contained in traditional foods and that people have eaten it for centuries without ill effect puts people off trying a short period of restriction if they have reason to think it is contributing to their illness. The fact that people have eaten it since the beginning of agriculture at least and that many healthy traditional cultures eat it in sizable quantities is just simply a fact. I’m just pointing it out is all. But if you eat it and experience problems, well that’s a fact too, isn’t it? Everyone will have to judge what’s best for their own bodies themselves. I’m suggesting that if you do have trouble it may be worth your while to give traditionally prepared grains a try.

Kristin June 11, 2013 at 5:04 pm

I’ve been watching this trend over the years and was thinking of writing something similar, I’ll just link to your well-written post! Thanks for both insight and information in the right amounts.

(I also encourage readers to use sourdough and soaking as possible, as well as freshly-ground flour if they really want to maximize the available phytase and nutrients.)

Jackie S June 11, 2013 at 8:10 pm

I am so glad that there is someone out there who has enough sense to see their nose in front of their face. I am so tired of people telling me “Don’t use butter use margarine” They don’t realize that margarine is worse for you than butter. “Don’t use Whole Milk”, I use fresh milk with cream in it. Everything has to be in moderation. If you go and eat a pound of butter you will have problems the same with drinking a whole gallon of milk at once. People do need to watch for the words “sulfite, sulfate and sulfonamides” when they buy food. I am allergic to them and I was told by my dietician that they are one of the more common allergies but people don’t realize it because it causes actual health problems not the usual hives or breathing problems./

Love your newsletter and your site.

Kathy June 11, 2013 at 8:50 pm

Thanks Jackie! There are lots of newfangled things that everyone should avoid entirely if they can like margarine, or GMO’s or high fructose corn syrup for instance. Sulphites are interesting though because they are a case a lot like gluten. Sulphites occur naturally in several traditional foods like wine. In modern processing though more are added and many people are sensitive to it. I’m one of them. I can still drink wine but it needs to be organic with no added sulphites. There are people with severe reactions to sulphites, like deadly reactions. But this doesn’t mean that sulphites in the moderate amounts of traditional diets is dangerous for the general population.

Kathy - Reader June 12, 2013 at 9:25 am

I am wondering if all these people with gluten problems have tried to switch their milk? Pasteurized milk does all kinds of odd things to a persons body, because it changes the nature of the milk. Homogenized or raw milk is a much better choice. Something to think about when baking, cooking or drinking. Good luck to all on your health journey.

Laurel June 12, 2013 at 9:49 am

I was a member of WAPF for 6 years before becoming deathly ill from gluten. I’d been drinking raw milk, making my own sourdough, fermenting my own veggies, growing a big garden, etc… IOW, doing everything right and still became very sick. More details are above.

Kathy June 12, 2013 at 9:55 am

Agreed Laurel, there are a sizable number of people doing all the real food stuff for years that are still battling health issues. In fact I think WAPF attracts people who are dealing some of the most serious chronic health problems and are making strong efforts to reverse them, sometimes successfully and sometimes not. Part of the reason why you can’t really judge a diet by the health of it’s adherents.

Laurel June 12, 2013 at 10:05 am

So true!

Kathy June 12, 2013 at 9:59 am

Hi Kathy … hey, you have my name 😉

For anyone having inflammation or autoimmune problems it’s worth it to try switching from pasteurized milk to raw to see if it helps things. Wrote a post about it awhile back:


Cory June 17, 2013 at 2:28 pm

For me the problem is the homogenization, not the pasteurization, oddly enough.

Kathy July 17, 2013 at 9:02 am

My problem is: can’t find raw milk. All our organic milk is pasteurized and/or homogenized.
I have tried checking the farms no luck. I can get raw goats milk for $7.99 (or more) a half gallon. But I can’t afford that. So what is a person to do?

We don’t have problems with gluten but back in the ‘sugar crazy’ we cut out all white and artificial sugars. I had a daughter that was super sensitive to sugar and food colorings. Now I only buy it for the Hummingbirds.

Janet June 12, 2013 at 11:09 am

In regard to your comment, “Barring possible contamination from Monsanto’s GMO wheat experiments nowhere in the world is the wheat supply grown from GMO seeds.” I’m afraid that IS happening all over our country now, and it’s very difficult to get non-GMO seed. A video you can find at the library, “Food, Inc.” is very informative, and I just learned of another, “The Truth About Food.” I love my bread, and hate that it’s not still in the pure form God created it. In the case of GMO foods, we will truly reap what we sow.

Kathy June 12, 2013 at 12:15 pm

Hi Janet … while that is true for corn and soy it is not YET true for wheat. Food, Inc is great … everyone should watch it. I haven’t seen the BBC series “The Truth About Food” yet … I’ll have to make some time and watch it. Thanks for the recommendation :-)

jmr June 12, 2013 at 12:41 pm

I can’t eat gluten. I’ve also been eating a WAPF-style diet for several years and I’ve done GAPS for a few months in the past, all of which has helped me with a tremendous amount of healing. I still haven’t given up on the idea that with some more time, more healing, and some of the special older varieties of wheat, I may be able to eat it again someday. I’m not there yet, but I’m going to do a trial of sourdough einkorn bread soon…traditionally prepared sourdough with regular wheat flour didn’t work for me. My biggest concern is that friends’/family’s knowledge that I can’t eat gluten means they always provide me with expensive gf processed foods, most of which are full of garbage I also prefer not to eat. Then I feel guilty for turning down something they went to a lot of trouble to make or buy.

Shannon June 12, 2013 at 1:02 pm

I should preface what I’m about to say with the caveat that I am not a fan of the anti-wheat/wheat belly/paleo dogma. Instead of actually looking into the historical changes (for the worse) of plant breeding and cultivation, they tend to just say “wheat is bad!” and I don’t necessarily agree with that.

I was nodding my head in agreement until you wrongly defined what a hybrid is. This is absolutely critical, because running around saying we should eat this or that without a foundational understanding of actual agriculture can take away from our credibility, even when we mean well.

Hybridized plants are not simply cross-pollinated as they might be in nature. You are correct in that two plants cross-pollinate often with the result being putting together the two desirable traits from those plants. This usually happens over a period of time, though.

That is a natural part of agriculture and you can tell that it is based on the resulting seed. You can take the seed from a cross-pollinated plant, save that seed, and replant it the next year; as farmers have done for thousands of years.

Hybrids, on the other hand, do not grow true to seed, meaning that if you save seed it will not be the same as the original plant.

And there is a difference between modern wheat and ancient wheat, and this has all happened through human-forced hybridization. These plants were hybridized for a few reasons, none of them having to do with the health of the plant:
1. The hybrids could be harvested in a big ag monocropping setup with large equipment.
2. The common strain of wheat that most of us eat today yields more because it has been hybridized to work well with chemical nitrogen fertilizers.
3. The higher gluten content makes fluffier bread.
Even Wikipedia states: “By 1997, 81% of the developing world’s wheat area was planted to semi-dwarf wheats, giving both increased yields and better response to nitrogenous fertilizer.”
I believe this strain of wheat has been the common strain of wheat in North America since somewhere around the 50s and 60s.

So while I think you are right in that our great grandmothers would have eaten gluten, the actual wheat grain itself is vastly different today than the one she would have gotten her gluten from. Furthermore, hybridization is not simply a natural process, but a scientific manipulation of seeds, plants, and therefore food. It is not as extreme as GMO, for sure, but the resultant hybrid, especially in the case of wheat, is not a normal part of traditional agriculture or food.

Here are a few resources:
An explanation of my preference for heirlooms: http://www.nourishingdays.com/2013/02/why-we-choose-heirloom-seeds/
A good definition of the differences between open-pollinated and hybrids: http://blog.seedsavers.org/open-pollinated-heirloom-and-hybrid-seeds/
A decent rundown of the history of wheat: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wheat

Kathy June 12, 2013 at 1:20 pm

Thank you Shannon for this detail on hybridization … it really helps to understand what we’re dealing with :-)

Calling it cross-pollination is an oversimplification, yes I agree. But it does fall far short of being GMO too which you note. I think it falls somewhere in a gray-area of traditional food really. Not strictly traditional but not really newfangled either … of course that’s up for debate as most things in the real food world are :). I’m generally trying to help people building a diet inside that gray-area so I’m not usually talking about the best or most perfect option but the relative merits of foods that are more commonly available. There are heirloom varieties available but they are generally pretty expensive to include in most peoples daily diet. So I’m talking about whether this kind of hybridization makes eating commonly available organic wheat a no-go … I don’t think it does.

Shannon June 12, 2013 at 1:35 pm


I appreciate your response and what you’re trying to do in terms of helping people. There is definitely always a good, better, best continuum for folks.

That said, even though we happily eat grains, I am a bit leery of commercial wheat because it is different from what our great grandmothers ate, more research is coming out showing that perhaps it isn’t wheat that is a problem but this modern hybridized wheat, and it is such a huge part of most people’s diet that much damage has and will be done. Even the number of chromosomes in traditional wheat is much less than in modern wheat, which is a bit of a red flag to me.

So while I would agree with you, and understand that some people are just going to eat it, perhaps by sharing the difference between the more traditional wheat and modern wheat we could paint a fuller picture for people.

Kathy June 12, 2013 at 2:14 pm

A great idea for another post … thanks again Shannon :)

Carrie June 15, 2013 at 4:36 pm

I decided to give a gluten free diet a try about 9 months ago after telling my neurologist, OBGYN and Internist that I was nauseous all the time and none of them could figure out why. I also suffered from frequent migraines, scars that weren’t healing properly and horrible joint pain. Within a few months of going gluten free, my 5 year old cesarean scar finally healed up, my migraines decreased and my knees started to feel better. Best of all – I WASN’T NAUSEOUS ALL THE TIME!!! It’s been absolutely life changing. I was so miserable and now I’m 25 lbs. lighter and I can think more clearly. For some reason, I am definitely one of those people who cannot have grains, I stick to baked goods made from coconut or almond flours instead.

The Modern Pioneer Mom June 16, 2013 at 10:15 pm

I think what needs additional emphasis to this (proper preparing of grains) is NATURAL YEAST (Pioneer Yeast) – This can be used when making bread, pancakes, waffles, etc… And once you make your first batch, you will NEVER have to buy yucky un-natural commercial yeast again. Interesting that I just saw this post, as I recently wrote about this very thing last week on my website. Anyone can make natural yeast (not necessarily sour dough) that can be used for regular bread & sweet breads. It starts the digestion process & *eats* the gluten & anti-nutrients before it even hits your mouth. Natural Leavening & Caleb Warnock’s website (He wrote “The Art Of Baking With Natural Yeast”) have lots of great info on this in addition to my post. There have actually been full blown Celiacs that are able to eat wheat when they start using natural yeast. It’s pretty awesome stuff :) Thanks for a GREAT post. This “no wheat/no gluten/no grain” thing is yet another food fad. And it makes me sad!

Cory June 17, 2013 at 2:43 pm

I can’t resist, I’m sorry…I’ve just got to throw a big ol’ wrench in this string of comments. Gluten is a traditional food. Isolated gluten. It’s called seitan. And you can make it at home. My 1970’s Joy of Cooking has instructions for doing it and it’s not hard.


Though I’m sure this is eaten like soy was in oriental cultures, which is to say, not in large quantities all the time.

Kathy June 17, 2013 at 7:14 pm

Great point :-)

RuthG June 20, 2013 at 9:19 am

One of the most recent apparent fads is the Paleo diet, named supposedly from the paleolithic period, suggesting that this is the way our ancient ancestors lived. One of the key components of it is that is it grain free. Now you cant get more traditional than paleolithic! So are the ‘experts’ right? Were the original paleo diets free from grains and therefore gluten?

[My own view is that they are not right – when we visit ancient villages here in the UK and museums dedicated to how our ancestors lived, it is obvious they ground grain and made bread, because there are stone grain grinding wheels on display!].

Brad June 22, 2013 at 3:08 pm

Grandma ate lots of gluten in an era when 60 was considered a full life. Not sure that’s the model we should pattern our current habits after. We’ve made progress since then.

Kathy June 22, 2013 at 6:41 pm

Respectfully, I disagree. First, many many people lived past 60 in Grandma’s day. Check out my post How Long Did People Live 100 Years Ago for a full response on that point. And as to modeling our diet on Grandma’s or Great-Grandpa or Great-Great-Grandpa, well, that’s what traditional diets are all about, and what this blog is about. Efforts to return to the many varied diets that have supported mankind for thousands of years. Diets that are minus the industrialized gunk and that include the foods our ancestors felt were important for health. Wheat and gluten are undeniably traditional food. Now if you’d like to argue that we’ve made progress and now know better than to eat what has sustained our ancestors for thousands of years, well many people argue that. In fact, it’s the majority opinion, at least in the US. But respectfully, I must disagree. History is basically a large-scale study of human health selecting for the cultures that got it right. I don’t think we’re likely to improve on that. But of course that argument is outside the scope of this post.

Deidre Y. Whitfield July 13, 2013 at 8:16 am

Going gluten-free is challenging but manageable. I’ll be honest: I miss bread, especially dark, chewy whole-grain bread, like the kind I grew up with. Giving up pasta wasn’t as difficult, although I do cook with gluten-free pasta when I need my Italian fix. And if you don’t want to prepare it yourself, a lot of restaurants now offer gluten-free pasta, even pizza. Regardless, I just feel so much better. My body was telling me that I needed to change a huge chunk of my diet, and I always listen to my body. The benefit is that I feel healthier than ever.

Meredith Spitalnik July 16, 2013 at 7:54 pm

As someone who medically needs to be GF, this post was really hard to read. But once I got over that, you’re right. (Though I wish you had put the “this does not apply to those with medical issues”) Along with the 1% of the population who needs to be GF, there’s a much larger percentage who are doing it as a fad. The only good thing about that is that the selection and quality and availability of GF products has improved dramatically (no more frozen doorstops mislabeled as bread!). Unfortunately, most of them are now the same kind of processed crap that we ate before we had to go GF. And unfortunately, while more restaurants and home cooks are aware of gluten, many of them are also under the impression that it’s not a big deal. For those who are GF just to lose weight, or because they just vaguely feel better, or whatever reason, finding an onion ring at the bottom of the basket of putatively GF fries, or a crouton at the bottom of a salad isn’t that big a deal – just don’t eat it, or pull it off. And that attitude makes them careless, which makes life harder.

I don’t think that everybody should go GF, though I do suggest testing or a trial to anybody with a lot of weird symptoms that don’t seem to be coming from anywhere. With the number of people still undiagnosed, it is always good sense to rule out celiac or gluten intolerance as a root cause of symptoms that don’t make sense :)

Kathy July 16, 2013 at 9:19 pm

Thanks for commenting Meredith … I’m glad you liked the post :-)

The Modern Pioneer Mom July 16, 2013 at 11:21 pm

Hi, I posted a comment on your FB page about this also. I hope that’s ok. I don’t want to step on toes, but this is one thing I REALLY want to get out there to people, because most just don’t know! These issues in your post (which is awesome, by the way) aren’t the only issues with the gluten/grain problem. One of the main issues is COMMERCIAL YEAST. It’s synthetic, & it doesn’t do what yeast is supposed to do to grains… Pre-digest it! Natural yeast (which is also sweet & doesn’t have to be sour) literally eats gluten, & when done the right way, there is ZERO trace of gluten in any of the foods prepared with natural yeast. I wrote on this recently on my website, & I’m doing a short followup on it in a few days. I took classes from Caleb Warnock ((author of “The Art Of Baking Bread With Natural Yeast” & several other books on organic gardening & self sufficiency)) & he taught me SO much. Again, I don’t want to step on toes, so I won’t post the link, but I really hope this info will help.

Kathy July 17, 2013 at 6:55 am

It is really important to get the word out on this, so glad you shared! Absolutely, go ahead and share the link when you’re ready. I’d love to read it :-)

The Modern Pioneer Mom July 19, 2013 at 6:24 pm

Sure, no problem. It’s http://www.themodernpioneermom.com/1/post/2013/06/whats-the-deal-with-gluten-wheat-grains.html I’ll be doing some updates soon with more specifics, as this was a fairly general post. Hope you enjoy it :)

RuthG July 21, 2013 at 6:26 am

Excellent; I didnt know that. I will be looking for natural yeast in future instead of the prepackaged, dried, ‘fast’ yeast. Thank you so much.

Rosa August 6, 2013 at 4:40 am

Where can I get natural yeast? TY

The Modern Pioneer Mom August 6, 2013 at 12:46 pm

The links to get natural yeast are in the article above on my website. Caleb Warnock’s website & Natural Leavening website. Just click above & it tells you all about it. They send you a dry start, & you activate/grow it yourself. Super easy :)

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