Michael Pollan is a well-known author and modern day activist in our current food revolution. He has several books published on food, comparing traditional cultures and nutrition, as compared to the modern day Western Diet. You may have heard of a few of his most popular books: “In Defense of Food,” and “An Omnivores Dilemma.”
One of Michael Pollan’s most recent projects includes a four-part food documentary on Netflix called, “Cooked.”
Each part goes through a different cooking technique: Water, Fire, Earth and Air. I would highly recommend the docu-series if you have a chance to view them, well, I think he was a bit dogmatic in “Fire,” but that’s for another blog post! However, all four were really very interesting and very well done and I enjoyed them all. I wanted to focus a bit more attention on and write about “Air.”
“Air” went into the topic of gluten and wheat as a staple grain for many cultures around the world. This is a topic I have studied and researched at length, partially due to my own sensitivity, but more so, I believe, in order to help direct a patient to eliminate gluten from their diet, a practitioner has to be very well versed in the subject. It is a huge undertaking to eliminate, and it really should be for clearly indicated symptoms and conditions.
During the documentary Michael Pollen went into gluten free diets, stating that it was the modern day targeted “fad” food to eliminate. At one point it was Fat-Free Diets, then Sugar-Free now Gluten-Free. I agree with him to a point, however, there are absolutely gluten intolerant conditions, even with the ideal wheat and processing. I will always explain to patients, WHY modern day gluten is becoming such sensitivity. I know that if I know the reasoning behind something, I’m more likely to stick to it.
There are many enormous factors contributing to modern day gluten intolerance in North America, let’s outline four today:
- North American Wheat is hybridized to increase the gluten of the wheat. This allows bread made from this wheat to be fluffier and increases the store shelf life. I will usually explain to patients that if they are travelling to Europe they likely will not be sensitive to that wheat.
- Modern day bread has an average of 10-30 ingredients per loaf
- Modern day bread is not fermented or sprouted with natural sourdough starter; instead packaged yeast is added to bread
- Machines make modern day bread; powerful machines will activate the gluten in wheat far more than when kneading bread by hand, as in traditional methods. This hyper machine-activated gluten is very difficult for our digestive systems to break down.
They say that the refrigerator was the downfall of our digestive systems. Prior to the fridge, foods needed to be fermented to increase shelf life. Fermenting foods have a tremendous benefit to our digestive system. Fermented wheat, naturally breaks down the gluten so it is pre-digested; releases anti-nutrient properties so we get more vitamins and minerals from the bread, it is shelf stable, and you get essential probiotics for a healthy digestive tract.
Modern day bread eliminates all of this, we can use powdered yeast, and put it in the fridge along with 20 other ingredients, and boom we have “bread” that sits in the fridge…for weeks without going bad. Eating this type of “bread,” no wonder we have chronic digestive issues and stressed nervous systems.
For some, not all, who are currently gluten sensitive, it may be due to modern day wheat. The baker he featured in the movie who fermented bread was my favorite part. I really loved him, loved his passion, his heart, and how he linked fermenting to all animals in nature. How he prepares bread is a dying and lost art. HOWEVER, how lucky are we to live in Richmond where you can find such bread right in Steveston Village! The owner of “Romania Country Bread,” follows this beautiful art. His bread has three ingredients: Non-Gmo Wheat from Alberta; Water; Natural Sourdough starter, and sometimes some yeast as well.
In our ever-increasing attention deficit society, it is so refreshing to witness Mastery. He makes only one type of bread, all day, every day – just one. The yeast in the air along with the natural sourdough starter, lends to the traditional loaf. This is a lost art, and we have it right here in Richmond. It is so beyond exciting to me, I had to blog about it. Each loaf is $10 and the size of two loaves.
If you are adventurous, you can try and make your own sourdough starter and make your own bread. Here is a great websites on traditional foods; she has a recipe to help get you started.
At Brio, we love bringing history into our Naturopathic Practices; it is a huge basis of the Brio Living Philosophy. We can only understand the reaction of the body, if we study the time periods when the reaction did not occur. Check out the documentary, I think you will love it!
In health, Dr. Neetu