Poor quality, improperly grown, stored and prepared grains together with mycotoxins represent a significant and growing problem in our food supply. Evidence has been gathering that grains (and the mycotoxins increasingly contained in them) can significantly and adversely impact our health.
Mycotoxins are toxins produced by fungi which can grow in yeasts or molds. Fungi are single-cell forms of life that have been on earth for billions of years. They are more highly developed than bacteria and viruses and - like Bechamp's mycrozyma - fungi can be found throughout our environment. Also like Bechamp's mycrozyma, fungi can change form. This allows them to remain dormant or in a state of no growth for thousands of years and then shift to a rapid growth state when the conditions are favorable. Again like Bechamp's microzyma, fungi produce and secrete a poisonous toxin called a mycotoxin. Finally, and once again like Bechamp's mycrozyma, fungi are opportunistic: that is they are contained in a healthy biological terrain but flourish in, and sometimes overwhelm, a compromised biological terrain.
Mycotoxins (along with prions now thought to be responsible for Mad Cow Disease) may in fact be just a new name for Bechamp's mycrozyma which have been alterred by "improper fermentation."
The diseases linked to these mycotoxins parallel those which are linked to insulin/blood sugar imbalance as well as inflammatory response. They include arthritis, alzheimer's, heart disease, cancer, allergies, candida or yeast overgrowth, inflammatory bowel syndrome, most if not all autoimmune diseases - and more. They also have the ability, like heavy metals, to unravel or damage DNA. Interestingly, certain drugs, most especially antibiotics, are themselves fungal toxins while other drugs act as anti-fungals. This in no way makes drugs an ideal option since all drugs work by interferring with or over-riding body systems - which is another way of saying drugs do nothing to improve the biological terrain.
The most toxic forms of fungi and the toxins produced by them are becoming increasingly common in many portions of our modern, industrial-style food supply, and most especially in improperly stored, pesticide-laden grains and corn which are then eaten in large amounts in various forms and foods by humans and livestock alike.
The range of food products affected is truly astounding. (Peanuts and soy are also highly problematic, as are alcoholic beverages which are generally made from moldy grapes or grains). One easy method to reduce consumption of mycotoxins would be to eat animal products that come from pastured, non-grain fed livestock. Another would be to select high quality, sustainably grown fresh whole grains and then use proper preparation methods to secure the highest amounts of nutrients possible.
But grains, even organically grown, nutrient-rich, whole, fresh grains, represent other problems for human consumption. One of these problems no doubt has to do with overconsumption of chemically-burdened, nutrient depleted, and/or heavily processed grains. Another problem has to do with the insulin response, whether the grain consumed is processed or in its whole state. But the last and most important problem may in fact be that grains were never an ideal human food in the first place.
As James Braly (M.D.) and Ron Hogan (M.A.) assert in their book Dangerous Grains :
"Popular beliefs and politically motivated promotion, not science, continue to dictate dietary recommendations, leading to debilitating and deadly diseases that are wholly or partly preventable. [In point of fact] . . . There is a persuasive convergence of evidence against grains from several fields, including medicine, genetics, and archeology. . . [Moreover] . . . This is the extremely complex problem we face. Many people eat grains daily because they are cheap and abundant, yet science is reporting that these very same grains are bringing us to the brink of an enormous health crisis."
Braly and Hogan go on to explain that:
"We know that throughout most of recorded history humans usually lived short, difficult lives replete with famine, pestilence, and a high infant-mortality rate. We sometimes assume that this was also the case for their preagricultural, prehistoric hunter-gatherer ancestors, yet this is probably not the case. In fact, the available evidence from studies of modern hunter-gatherers suggest just the opposite. . . Several isolated groups of hunter-gatherers were still in existence during the twentieth century. They had maintained their traditional lifestyle and were carefully observed by scientists like Vilhjalmur Stefansson [as well as Weston A. Price, Sir Robert McCarrison and others]. In addition to enjoying more leisure time than many people living in industrialized nations, such hunter-gatherers often lived long, healthy lives . . . [Conversely and as a consequence of grain-based agriculture] Our agricultural ancestors became smaller, their bones became weaker and more diseased, and the size of their brains diminished. Human brain size, based on head circumference, has diminished approximately 11 percent since the advent of agricultural societies. Modern European hunter-gatherer men and women stood five to six inches taller than farmers of a few generations later. Only recently, as a result of DNA analysis, has it become evident that the shorter farmers were actually descendants of the taller hunter-gatherers. There are many archeological excavations throughout the world that indicate this cereal-associated dynamic, regardless of where agriculture was begun. Clearly, the nutrient-rich hunter-gatherer lifestyle is most likely the factor that decreed the five to six inches difference in stature." Also see our Grain Timeline.
Business and politics have long played a role in convincing the public to use grains in a myriad of forms as a food staple. Braly and Hogan summarize the problem of political influence this way: "Government-sponsored guides to healthy eating, such as the USDA’s food pyramid, which advocates six to eleven servings of grains daily for everyone, lag far behind current research and continue to preach dangerously old-fashioned ideas. Because the USDA’s function is largely the promotion of agriculture and agricultural products, there is clear conflict of interest inherent in any USDA claim of healthful benefits arising from any agricultural product."
Although dated this excerpt cited from the Spring 2003 issue of "Wise Traditions" provides a good example of the manner in which business influences both the government and our food choices [this influence has not changed with the new food pyramid]:
"The USDA guidelines call for 2-3 servings of meat or dairy products per day, but 6-11 servings of grains. If you think that the grain industry was an innocent bystander, visit www.cerealfoods.com/pyramid. There you will read the following: "Because we fully recognize that the success of Cereal Foods is dependent on the success of the baking industry and breadstuffs in general, we are active in assisting organizations such as the Wheat Foods Council in promoting the USDA Food Guide Pyramid. If Americans ate just the minimum of six servings as recommended in the pyramid graphic, an additional $7 billion in wholesale baked goods would be realized. Cereal Foods Processor believes in making this possibility a reality."
[Note that the cereal foods website mentioned above is no longer available except as a cached page.]
So what can we do if we want or need to include grains in our diet and still enjoy a reasonable level of health?
To begin, you may want to consider reducing overall consumption of grains. Next, try to search out and use only sustainably grown or organic whole grains (and products properly made with whole grain) which has not been stored in damp, mold-inducing conditions. Einkorn wheat may be an exceptionally good choice due to its low gluten content, and high protein to carb ratio. And last, proper preparation is essential in order to secure the maximum nutrition grains have to offer. This is due to the fact that grains contain phytic acid which combines with various minerals in the digestive tract and this then blocks proper absortion of these minerals. Grains also contain enzyme inhibitors which can interfere with digestion.
As Sally Fallon and Mary Enig write in their Nourishing Traditions cookbook: "Traditonal societies usually soak or ferment their grains before eating them, processes that neutralize phytates and enzyme inhibitors and in effect, predigest grains so that all their nutrients are more available. Sprouting, overnite, soaking and old-fashioned sour leavening can accomplish this important predigestion process in our own kitchens."
To put it another way, soaking, sprouting and sour-leavening makes vitamins and minerals more available and this allows these grains to be more alkaline-forming for the body.
But again, grains and cereal crops may never have been an ideal food source. See our Grain Timeline.
For further reading:
Wheaty Indiscretions: What Happens to Wheat from Seed to Storage (and its links) originally posted at the Weston Price website.
And these books:
Dangerous Grains by James Braly, M.D., and Ron Hoggan M.A
Life Without Bread by Christian B. Allan, PhD and Wolfgang Lutz, M.D.
Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon and Mary Enig, Ph.D.
Fungus Link: an Introduction To Fungal Disease by Doug Kaufmann
by Alan M. Sugar and Caron A. Lyman