THE BLOG
02/11/2014 10:53 am ET Updated Apr 13, 2014

Eating Wheat Again

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Have you noticed how many people seem to be avoiding gluten these days? The increasing numbers of people reporting symptoms from consuming gluten-based foods is not a fad. Most experts claim the epidemic of gluten reactors is because the wheat of today is different from the grain grown 50 years ago.

Sometime in the 1960s, farmers got serious about breeding specific characteristics into their wheat crops. These practices appear to increase the amounts of irritating proteins in the grain. Studies have found modern wheat has more potentially reactive substances than older varieties. (http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00122-010-1408-4)

In other words, the more we mess with wheat plants, the more people seem to be having problems with it. I do not like how often I find myself recommending gluten removal, but the complicated protein can cause an almost endless number of symptoms. Consequently, when a friend who had been gluten free for over 10 years told me she found a kind of wheat she could eat, I was intrigued.

She discovered the Italian flour at a pizzeria in Delaware. They only used an Italian variety called Caputo "00." She was nervous about eating a conventional piece of pizza after a decade of avoidance but the owner insisted she would be fine (as long as she did not have celiac disease). According to her doctor, her gluten reactions were not due to celiac disease, so she dug in. And dug in and dug in.

"I returned every day for a week," she confessed sheepishly. "It was so good and I felt completely fine."

I immediately ordered several bags of the flour and set about making Christmas cookies for my gluten-sensitive friends who did not have celiac disease. They all tolerated them. There are other reports of people with gluten intolerance tolerating heritage or heirloom wheat varieties. (http://host.madison.com/entertainment/dining/the-demand-for-heritage-grains-explodes/article_364578ba-5983-11e1-b149-0019bb2963f4.html) Heritage grains are not grown in large-scale commercial operations and have changed little over hundreds of years. These experiences beg the question: Is gluten suddenly making more people sick or is what we are doing to wheat plants the culprit?