March 30, 2020
The Honourable Mr. Tyler Shandro, Q.C.
423 Legislative Building
10800-97 Avenue NW
Dear Mr. Shandro:
This month’s topic is wheat. That seems strange for a series devoted to addressing the financial failings and badly misguided ideology of our current health care system. Wheat is one of the oldest domestic crops known to man. It goes right back to biblical times. So what is new with wheat? Depending on who you talk to , there have been a lot of amazing changes to modern agriculture in the past 50 years and wheat has been front and center all the way. Western Canada’s broad acre farmers are at the leading edge of these changes and are as good as any of the best farmers in the world.
Back in the mid 1960’s the worlds population was about 3.5 billion people, approximately half of what it is today. Yet in those days it was often stated that one third of the world’s people were starving, another third were hungry and the remaining third were a bit better off. Today with double the population, there are still hungry people and malnourished people but starvation is rare and when it does occur the world community generally responds quickly and effectively. So, what changed? Farming changed and it changed a lot. In the mid 1960’s a good crop of wheat grown of summer fallow was about 20-25 bushels to the acre. Today a good wheat crop grown in a continuous crop rotation is about 100 bushels to the acre. So, what happened there?
What happened was that a lot of good scientists worked hard to selectively encourage the evolution of wheat to have less straw (Height reduced from four feet to two feet) and much bigger heads with much higher yield. The man credited with leading the research that guided the evolution of wheat to the crop that we know as wheat today was Dr. Norman Borlaug. For his work, he won the Nobel Prize in 1969 and so he should. (If you can do for healthcare what this man has done for starvation, you will deserve a Nobel Prize too)
So, what is there to not like about that? People should be thrilled with this. Yet you see gluten free options on every menu and people are gravitating to Keto and Paleo and other low carb diets all over the place. What is wrong with these people? The medical establishment used to dismiss such people as tin foil hat, flat earth, whack job, fringe lunatics. However, our premiere, Jason Kenney is a keto guy and a pretty fit and powerful one at that so we probably need to be a bit cautious. Maybe there is some truth here.
As I mentioned in my previous letters, my old professors back in the early 70’s were already very concerned that the new Medicare program was on the wrong track and if it only treated symptoms and results instead of causes that all it would accomplish is to transfer wealth from the taxpayers to the Medical Industrial Complex and Big Pharma while the general health of our population got a lot worse. (Yes we keep people alive longer but they are not healthier.) But take heart. I remember an old pathology professor, Dr. Moore, who said that all government programs eventually succeed because of the inherent ability of the people to rise above the system and succeed in spite of the system. That isn’t what we really want for $25 billion a year but is that what we are seeing here? Are the people realizing that our healthcare system that has a pill for every ill is not the healthcare system that they want and that they are rising above the system as Dr. Moore said they would? This could be the case. Let’s look a little closer.
The first group to jump ship were the diabetics. Diabetes as we saw in October is a horrible disease which if not treated properly leads to a whole spectrum of health problems. Diabetics were first told to avoid sugar as much as possible but that healthy whole grains were good foods to eat. However, as self-testing equipment got better in about the 1980’s diabetics around the world got a big surprise. They found that when they consumed breads, pastas, and cereals made from whole grains but especially wheat that their blood sugar spiked as quickly and dramatically as it would have if they had eaten pure sugar. So, what happened here? It turns out that Norman Borlaug’s super wheat had a problem. The carbohydrate component of the wheat , Amyopectin A, was not stable. Amyolpectin A is a polysaccharide made up of six molecules of glucose. It is supposed to break down slowly giving a slow and steady source of energy over a long period of time. However, it breaks down very quickly causing a glucose spike which calls for a large release of insulin and this causes the whole diabetes problem just as much as pure sugar. So, starting in the 1990’s physicians and patients who were very serious about controlling blood sugar realized that avoiding wheat was just as important as avoiding sugar in a quest to control blood sugar levels. Sadly, many physicians did not get the memo and neither did the diabetes association. To this day the Canadian Diabetes Association still recommends a diet with a lot of healthy whole grains and other carbohydrates. Their diet is not much different from the Canada Food Guide which is just an abomination put together by bureaucrats who are trying to appease a bunch of lobby groups. Fortunately a lot of the people are rising above the system and succeeding in spite of the system just as Dr. Moore said they would.
But glucose isn’t gluten. So what is the deal with gluten? Gluten is the protein portion of the wheat and in Borlaug’s super wheat it too has a problem. Unlike Amylopectin A which breaks down too quickly, Borlaug’s gluten does not break down quickly enough. There should be no such thing as food allergies. Allergies are the body’s immune system responding to foreign proteins . If proteins in our diet are broken down completely in the gut and only amino acids are absorbed there shouldn’t be a problem. You can’t be allergic to amino acids! However, the gluten in Borlaug’s wheat doesn’t break down completely and small chains of amino acids called peptides are absorbed from the gut. The gut’s immune defense, the reticuloendothelial system, recognizes these peptides as foreign and launches a severe inflammatory response. This inflammation causes all the inflammatory disorders that we discussed last month. Also, the inflammatory response to the undigested protein from wheat causes the tight junctions between the cells of the gut to loosen causing what we call leaky gut syndrome. This means that now other partially digested proteins also get out of the gut and the reticuloendothelial system has more foreign proteins to attack. These are also misunderstood to be food allergies. The chronic inflammation of the gut gets a few different names. There is ileitis, colitis, Crohn’s disease and a few more. Physicians seem to think that if they give your problem a name that they have done you some great service. You have probably heard stories of people who are severely gluten intolerant in North America but who went to Europe and could eat bread all day. You have probably dismissed these people as fringe lunatic, certified whack jobs. No, it is just that they don’t use Borlaug wheat in Europe.
So, why is it so hard to quite eating bread? Many people try to quit bread but it is like it is some sort of an addiction. That is exactly correct. In the letter on “Addictions “in January we declared sugar to be the mother of all addictions because first the glucose from sugar triggers the release of dopamine when it triggers receptors in the Nucleus Accumbens. Second, glucose in the gut feeds and increases bad bacteria in the gut which in turn crowd out the good bacteria which would normally produce a significant amount of dopamine. Sugar is 50% glucose, Amylopectin A is 100% glucose. So when it comes to addictions and upsetting the gut’s microbiome, wheat has the same mechanism at work only on a larger scale but it gets worse. While the glucose has addictive problems, there is also a small peptide with three amino acids that also triggers a dopamine receptor in the Nucleus Accumben. This is the same receptor that opioids attach to and cause the release of dopamine which is why the opioids are addicting.
Then there is the whole issue of pH changes in the body. Our pH has to remain very near 7.4. If this varies even a little, the body must correct this very quickly. Carbohydrate metabolism in general and wheat in particular produce acidic byproducts such as lactic acid. This lowers the body’s pH and the body must correct this right away. It can do this first by drawing the bicarbonate from the blood but then it draws alkaline salts such as calcium carbonates and calcium phosphates from the bones and joints. This weakens the bones and joints. Eventually this leads to problems like osteopenia and osteoporosis and this in turn leads to bone fractures and joints that are so painful that patients want them surgically replaced at great cost. Calcium supplements will not fix osteoporosis or joint problems. These are pH problems not calcium problems.
In general, meats are the main producers of acid while vegetables have a higher pH and buffer the acids from animal proteins. The only acceptation in the plant kingdom is grains. Unlike nearly all other plants wheat produces a lot of sulphuric acid as a byproduct. This contributes in a large way to acid imbalance and the resulting bone density problems. Treating bone density problems with pharmaceuticals like Fosamax and Boniva is a $10 billion a year business for Big Pharma. Arthritis is also a direct result of wheat through the mechanism described last month under “Inflammation”. It is the products of inflammation, the tumor necrotic factor, interleukins and leptin that damage the protein matrix of the cartilage of the joints. It is not uncommon to hear stories of severe arthritis improving quickly after the wheat and other grains are removed from the diet. (Again, the arthritis business is worth billions of dollars to Big Pharma.)
Another problem with foods made from wheat is not a problem with the wheat itself but more to do with part of the harvesting process. I am talking about glyphosates, Roundup. This chemical has been a staple of weed control for a half a century and when used properly it is pretty safe. When properly used it is coupled with a genetically modified organism (GMO) that is Roundup Ready. The big three are Roundup Ready canola, soybeans, and corn. The idea is that you plant the GMO crop and a month later you spray it with Roundup which kills every other plant in the ecosystem and you have a nice weed free crop. By the time you harvest, the Roundup is long gone and is not a problem.
However, in the case of wheat, which is not a GMO, Roundup is used to desiccate the crop(Kills everything so it cures out and gets dry enough to harvest.)They used to accomplish this by swathing years ago but now harvest equipment is so big that this no longer works.
The problem with desiccation is that now you are spraying straight onto the seeds of the crop just a few days before harvesting and Roundup doesn’t break down that quickly and it remains detectable throughout all food processing and ends up in the food we eat. Roundup isn’t a poison to humans which is good but it is a poison to all the bacteria in our gut because most bacteria are part of the plant kingdom. (They have cell walls.) So desiccated grains can seriously upset our gut microbiome causing enough problems to fill a book, many books in fact.
So the average guy who decides he isn’t healthy and decides that he will try quitting wheat because of one of the reasons stated above always gets a good outcome. No matter what reason he had for quitting wheat; he reaps all of the benefits described above. No matter whether he is opposed to gluten or glucose or acidity or glyphosates; he gets the benefits in all these areas.
So, getting back to our original question, “Why are so many people eliminating wheat from their diet?” The answer is, “Because it works.” People are getting remarkable results even if they quit for the wrong reason.
I hope this letter has been helpful and I hope you are doing well with the COVID-19 pandemic. Hopefully this pandemic has helped you to see why we must move to a healthcare system that produces wellness rather than just treats symptoms. We will go into that in depth when we wrap things up in May.
In the meantime, stay well and stay safe.
Dr. Murray Hennings, DMD