Chinese Medicine and digestive health subjects are often discussed side by side. In my studies of Chinese Medicine we discussed the subject of bread a number of times. At the time the wisdom imparted was eat no more than two slices of bread a day. Many digestive issues result in high bread consumption and in this article I will discuss some of the issues that arise with the alternative breads.
It is a common sight in my studio: clients with digestive issues and many are associated with wheat products consumption such as bread. But what can be so bad? Isn't there bread at every table in most countries. Isn't there Bible stories of passing bread so what can be the culprit? What is in bread that causes 1 in 100 people to have serious reactions to it and many more to be intollerant.
I put this question to my teacher. It turns out that at least two factors may be involved. Australian wheat is not the same cultivar as that grown in Europe. It has been adapted with select breeding to be able to produce high yields in our poor soils and dry climate**. Secondly, for much of it's existence bread making was a lengthy process of letting the dough ferment over a day or two. Fermentation process allows select organisms to break down the flour in the process making Co2 gasses as a byproduct which in turn makes the dough rise and be of lighter texture. This is very much a process of pre-digestion making it easier for the digestive process in our stomachs. The problem is that in the interest of faster production fermentation has been reduced from days to a few hours at best*** leaving behind gluten proteins (contained also in barley, oats and rye) that fermentation has not had a sufficient time to act on and thus being harder for on our system.
Could gluten free breads be part of the solution? To answer this, I started to experiment with eating them. I bought many a loaf only to see different symptoms appear. Researching the ingredients further I noticed that whilst these gluten free breads did indeed not have wheat, rye or oat gluten, they had a large range of ingredients with their own unhealthy side effects. Some ingredient lists contained many starches which are a high GI product causing insulin spikes by the nature of their rapid absorption and conversion into glycogen*****. Many also include vegetable gums to bind the ingredients together in the absence of gluten. The problem with gums is that dehydrated people and those on the margins of good hydration can end up with increased constipation causing another type of irritation and symptomology in the digestive tract. Further issues encompass complexity of recipe which results in additional difficulty in digestion due to the differing environments required for each to be effectively broken down (eg acid/alkaline , enzymes). Finally, some products just don't appeal to me due to the nature of their texture or mouth feel.
Over a number of months I have looked at literally dozens of loaves and decided to share my own perceptions on the best of them.
By far the healthiest ingredient, best tasting and textured loaf is by Deeks Health Bakery. Their Quinoa loaf has relatively few ingredients, is GMO, gluten, grain free and mostly organic. More information on their website.
Goanna Bakery sells this wonderful loaf. It is made using rice, soy and arami (seaweed). Such a simple list of ingredients. Once again organic flours, no additives, no nuts. More information is on their website.
A very honourable mention goes to GFPrecinct for their Buckwheat & Chia loaf. It has a wonderful texture with seeds and taste but as you can see the recipe is much more complex in an effort to emulate traditional bread texture without using gluten. Many look and taste more like unsweetened cakes with textures that are more crumbly and less chewy. Website
In terms of the simplest organic recipe out there, the people behind the Dovedale Rice Chia breads take the prize. Website Looking at the packaging I can see a total of 5 ingredients and none of them are preservatives, colours and such.
I found the taste quite nice without the overly plastic texture of the cheaper supermarket loaves, owing to excess amounts of vegetable gums in the mix. The texture was crumbly and felt dry. My impression is that this is quite a fragile slice as it is thin and inflexible. Slightest bend and it breaks up so hold your sandwich with your finders well spread.
Venturing into the isles of Coles or any of the supermarket chains and you will also find gluten free breads but one look at their ingredient lists may show up to 10 ingredients with many stabilisers, acidity controllers, artificial colours and flavours. They often contain many starches and gums and on eating them you really feel the difference. They often have no claims on being GMO free and hence probably aren't let alone organic. On consumption I noticed high energy swings (due to their high starch and thus glycemic index) headaches and an hour later weakness. In Chinese Medicine we would call this Yang Rising. This for me is not a path to health and well-being.
On reflection I feel that it is best to forget about traditional breads when venturing into gluten free loaves and instead embrace their own specific qualities, as they are. There is no point in pining after apples when eating oranges. They are different and both are good in their own way.
This is not an exhaustive examination of all products out there but I did try to find a fair selection on the quality end of the available spectrum available in the Elwood (Vic) area.
I will also mention that I have no connection or financial interest in any of these products or companies.
Should you have concerns about your digestion, liver or other ailments please raise them at your next shiatsu consultation where I will answer any questions.
* Typical Sourdough Recipe: http://www.sourdoughbaker.com.au/index.php/recipes-how-to-make-sourdough-bread/simple-sourdough-recipes/white-sourdough-loaf
** Wheat species in USA and beyond https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WSDkJEF9aBY
***Dough rising times for sourdough and commercial yeast breads discussion http://www.sourdoughhome.com/index.php?content=theartoftherise
**** Statistics Fasano A, Berti I, Gerarduzzi T, et al. Prevalence of celiac disease in at-risk and not-at-risk groups in the United States. Archives of Internal Medicine. 2003;163(3):268Ð292.
***** It turns out that one of the problems with wheat is that it is highly addictive a process of sending opiate like substances across the blood brain barrier to the opiate receptors of the brain and being highly inflammatory to the gastrointestinal tract whilst at the same time spiking our insulin levels far worse than even white table sugar! See the presentation on the subject: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RmsxCN7htHM
Symptoms of digestive distress in non celiac clients research http://www.gastrojournal.org/article/S0016-5085%2813%2900702-6/abstract