Are Ancient Grains Safe to Eat for Celiacs?
Is Ancient Artisan Wheat Safe to Eat?
Have you heard that it’s ‘okay’ to eat ancient wheat or artisanal gluten-containing grains? I have. There have been blogs on the subject along with some personal accounts from individuals who ‘swear’ that they felt perfectly fine ingesting the ancient wheat found in Italy, some South American countries, etc.
Personally the whole idea never sat well with me. While I would love to believe that such cultivars of these grains were truly safe, there were just too many unanswered questions.
Gluten Can Cause Damage Silently…Meaning No Symptoms
My biggest question revolved around whether these people who were guinea pigging themselves just ‘felt’ okay or if they actually performed testing to ensure that no negative immune response was occurring. The fact is that some people don’t ‘feel’ the damage that gluten is creating in their body.
I’ve always told patients who have dramatic responses to gluten that, in a way, they are fortunate. Because they will never be lured into a false sense of security that an occasional cheat is allowed.
New Research Proves It
I, therefore, was delighted to see this brand new study from the Clinical Nutrition journal that was just published a couple of weeks ago. The researchers hail from London and their aim was to confirm or deny the hypothesis that ancient strains of wheat were safe for celiacs.
They evaluated seven different strains of wheat, including ancient and modern. They then took gluten-specific T-cell lines generated from 13 different celiac patients.
What are T cells?
T cells are part of the family of white blood cells called lymphocytes. They are called ‘T’ cells because they develop in the thymus gland of the body. They are involved in how the immune system defends itself against infections and toxins.
So the researchers smartly generated these lines from real people with real celiac disease to see what the reaction was. The result was as I suspected, but it’s not going to make some people very happy. Every strain of wheat whether it was modern or ancient caused an immune response.
So your next visit to Europe or South America or anywhere that boasts the use of ancient wheat that is ‘safe’, should cause you to run away and eat something you know is safe – because in all likelihood, that ancient wheat is anything but. I’m sorry to burst your bubble, but in the long run it’s much better to be safe, than to perhaps initiate a disease response such as autoimmune disease, simply because you wanted a piece of bread while traveling. It’s truly just not worth it.
There is some research occurring into how to alter the structure of the protein in these grains to make it such that an immune response does not occur, but this is still very much in the experimental stages.
If It’s Gluten, It’s Not Safe to Eat – Period.
The upshot is this: we currently know of no safe glutinous grains that should be ingested in any form by anyone suffering from gluten intolerance.
If you hear otherwise, and I know such opinions are present on the internet, feel free to share with them this information along with the specific research results cited below. I hope you found this informative and I also hope that I have dispelled a longstanding rumor regarding the ‘safety’ of ancient grains.
Reference: Clinical Nutrition. 2013 Feb 14. pii: S0261-5614(13)00049-6. doi: 10.1016/j.clnu.2013.02.003. [Epub ahead of print] Evaluation of the safety of ancient strains of wheat in coeliac disease reveals heterogeneous small intestinal T cell responses suggestive of coeliac toxicity. Suligoj T, Gregorini A, Colomba M, Ellis HJ, Ciclitira PJ.
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To your health,
Dr. Vikki Petersen
IFM Certified Practitioner
Founder of HealthNOW Medical Center
Author of “The Gluten Effect”
Author of eBook: “Gluten Intolerance – What You Don’t Know May Be Killing You!”