So far we’ve looked into how wheat can affect the human organism as a whole. From creating inflammation, to making us hungry, to affecting how DNA is expressed, the evidence is stacked fairly heavily against wheat for the human animal.
We also know that to think of the human body as a single organism is a bit short sighted. While we have roughly 10 trillion cells in our body, we also have over 100 trillion bacterial cells. While we have gone into the connection between gut bacteria, inflammation and nutrient absorption before, there are many more uses for these little critters. They influence what we crave, and our ability to resist food borne pathogens.
And guess what? Wheat isn’t too good for these little guys either.
Good bacteria, bad bacteria
Not all gut flora is created equal. You can think of your gut flora as a bunch of little gangs running through your intestines, sometimes fighting turf wars, but usually content to hang out
and do their thing.
And although many of them can work for us, they work in an opportunistic fashion. That is, they will eat whatever we end up putting down into our gullets. At the end of the day, food is what determines which bacteria persist and which ones die out.
The bacteria that have been shown to be the most beneficial for health, weight control and minimizing cravings include Bacteriodetes and Bifidobacterium. Bifidobacteria are among the first to develop in the infant gut, grow strongly on mother’s milk and protect the immune system of a newborn baby. It’s what we all start out with.
As we age, bifidobacterium and other beneficial bacteria typically give way to the much less beneficial firmicutes. Interestingly enough, the ratio of firmicutes/bacteridcetes is even higher in obese people, and shifts lower as weight is lost. Correlation does not necessarily equal causation but it’s an interesting connection nonetheless.
Adding wheat: What team are you sponsoring?
Studies have shown that the addition of wheat does two things: feed bad bacteria and starve good bacteria. It doesn’t stop at firmicutes either, experimental paradigms have showed the introduction of wheat can feed even nastier critters like salmonella.
One of the most relevant implications of missing out on proper gut bacteria to preppers is their use in absorbing food. Animal studies have shown that, all other things equal, rats with no beneficial gut flora needed to eat 30% more calories in order to get the same amount of nutrition. Think about the implications this has on a limited food supply in a survival situation.
In addition to the correlation with obesity, firmicutes have been connected to inflammation.This is because many firmicutes produce a substance called lipopolysaccharide(LPS) when they shed their cell walls. LPS is highly inflammatory, can directly create insulin resistance and even has effects on leptin resistance. It’s a bad news triple header.
Stay tuned for an upcoming post on how to maintain a healthy gut biome through food and lifestyle choices.