By now, you’ve probably seen the commercial with Oprah telling you that you can eat bread every day and still lose weight. It is sad, frightening, and disturbing that someone who has so much influence over society’s choices and behavior is using that power to encourage people to consume a substance that can have such a profound devastating affect on their mental and physical health that goes far beyond weight gain.
The consumption of bread can be a leading contributor to many degenerative health conditions that plaque our society today including, but not limited to, sugar and carb addiction, compulsive overeating, binging, and bulimia; drug and alcohol addiction; depression, anxiety, hyperactivity, OCD, tics or tourette’s, and other mental health issues like schizophrenia and psychosis; elevation in triglycerides and heart disease; autoimmune disorders, insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes; Alzheimer’s and other neurological conditions; Candida overgrowth, SIBO, IBS and other functional gut disorders; adrenal fatigue; cancer; developmental disorders; obesity, and much more.
Let’s take a look at some of the ways that eating bread can destroy your physical and mental health.
1. Bread is a Drug
Wheat and other glutenous grains are broken down into polypeptides called exorphins. Exorphins are a morphine like substance that can bind to our endorphin receptors and have a psychotropic affect on the brain in the same manner as heroin, and like any other opioid, tolerance develops and then the need (cravings) for more bread as endorphin levels become depleted.
The reason most of our society “loves” bread, and will do just about anything to keep it in their diet, is because they are addicted to it in the same manner as a heroin addict or alcoholic. Exorphins can produce profound disturbance in mood, thought and behavior, resulting in a wide array of symptoms or conditions like OCD, autism, depression, anxiety, eating disorders, attention deficit, aggression and violence, hyperactivity, and even psychosis and schizophrenia. They can also wreck havoc on the gastrointestinal tract, with symptoms like constipation and abdominal pain.
Here is a great video by Dr. James Greenblatt that will educate you about the far-reaching impact exorphins can have on your brain and health.
In the earlier phases of addiction, a drug or alcohol addicted individual may have brief periods where they can “control” their use of the substance for a short period of time, with a variety of behavioral, psychological or cognitive techniques. But, eventually those techniques become ineffective, because the cravings win out and they find themselves on a binge. The only way that recovery from an addiction can take place is to avoid the addictive substance all together.
The same is true for the bread addicted. They may be able to control their consumption by counting calories, points, or what have you for a while; but, it is only a matter of time before they give in and find themselves completely out of control with their bread eating behaviors and the weight comes back. We’ve seen many celebrities go through this process with a variety of the weight loss programs out there.
In the book, Wheat Belly, Dr. William Davis states, “so this is your brain on wheat: digestion yields morphine-like compounds that bind to the brain’s opiate receptors. It induces a form of reward, a mild euphoria. When the effect is blocked or no exorphin-yielding foods are consumed, some people experience a distinctly unpleasant withdrawal.”
Dr. Davis goes on to say, “the amazing thing about wheat elimination is that removing this food that triggers appetite and addictive behavior forges a brand-new relationship with food: You eat food because you need it to supply your physiologic energy needs, not because you have some odd food ingredient pushing your appetite “buttons,” increasing appetite and the impulse to eat more and more.”
Additionally, for many people, grains that are present in bread can be excitotoxins by causing an excess in glutamate levels. Excitotoxins stimulate neuron receptors so rapidly that they cause inflammation and cell death. All of which can also contribute to a wide array of neurological, behavioral, and cognitive symptoms or disorders.
2. Spikes Your Blood Sugar
All grains used for making breads are broken down into sugar and high on the glycemic index scale, which means they cause a significant spike in blood sugar. When blood sugar is spiked, then insulin is released and then there is a drop in blood sugar. When blood sugar drops, then you have cravings for more bread or other types of sugar and carbs, to bring blood sugar back up. So you eat more bread or other carbs and blood sugar spikes again, insulin is released again and cravings return and so on and so on.
If you are eating bread on a regular basis, your blood sugar is going up and down like a roller coaster on a regular basis. Eventually hormones like leptin and insulin will become less responsive, which over time may lead to hyperinsulinism, insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes, and then conditions like heart disease, cancer, obesity and Alzheimer’s.
High levels of insulin also prevent tryptophan from crossing the blood brain barrier, where it is required for the production of serotonin, and serotonin is the precursor to melatonin. As you may already know, serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is vital for modulating mood, appetite, and gut function and melatonin is our primary sleep hormone. Thus, depression, insomnia, gut problems, and food addiction are very common in those who eat bread and other grain-based foods.
In Grain Brain, by Dr. David Perlmutter, he tells us that “insulin resistance sparks the formation of those infamous plaques that are present in diseased brains like Alzheimer’s. Even slight elevations in blood sugar have been shown to increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.”
Additionally, any food that is high on the glycemic index causes a surge in neurotransmitters in the brain, which creates a mild euphoria (like being high) similar to drinking alcohol or using drugs. The regular consumption of high glycemic foods overstimulates neurons, which then leads to down regulation in production of or responsiveness to neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, gaba and endorphins and depletion. Depletion of these vital neurotransmitters can lead to a wide array of problems like addiction, compulsive overeating, depression, anxiety and other mental health issues, gut disorders, adrenal fatigue, sleep disturbances, and excess sympathetic nervous system activity and much more.
This is also true for rice and all the alternative grains as well like quinoa, amaranth, etc., so bread from these substances is not much better. Again, Dr. Perlmutter explains, “so-called ‘complex carbs’ may actually represent a more significant threat to health than simple sugar in that they may not only raise blood sugar, but keep it elevated for a more prolonged period of time.” “Most grain foods, whether we’re talking about quinoa, amaranth, the very popular grains of the day – the reality is they still are associated with a carbohydrate surge.”
As nutritionist Nora Gedgaudas tells us in Primal Body Primal Mind, “the same sort of damage that is done to the brain in alcoholism occurs at a slow, but steady rate when consuming any form of a carbohydrate (sugar and/or starch) rich diet.” Again, from Dr. William Davis, “eating two slices of whole wheat bread is really little different, and often worse, than drinking a can of sugar-sweetened soda or eating a sugary candy bar.”
3. A Feast for Your Microbes
All this starch in bread that is broken down into sugar, (including whole grains or alternative grains) provides a delicious feast for any microbial issue (Candida, SIBO, parasites, other bacteria) that may be present, or could create conditions in the gut that encourage overgrowth of one of these critters.
Reducing overgrowth of any microbial issue requires the elimination of grain-based foods like bread.
Furthermore, as discussed in point four below, the anti-nutrients present in grains destroy the gut, which creates an environment that encourages more overgrowth of microbes.
4. Bread is Loaded with Anti-nutrients
Wheat and other grains, including brown rice, are laden with a variety of anti-nutrients like lectins, phytates and, protease inhibitors that degrade the gut lining, impair nutrient absorption, inhibit digestion of proteins, and induce an autoimmune response. All of which can lead to leaky gut, food sensitivities, nutritional deficiencies, and a wide array of autoimmune disorders like multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, thyroiditis, etc.
5. Increases LDL, Triglycerides, and Inflammation
Excess sugar in the bloodstream from eating bread and other grain-based foods gets converted into fat (triglycerides) to be stored in the cell, meaning regular consumption may lead to elevated triglyceride levels. Additionally, when there is too much fat being stored in the cell, then it will be converted into LDL and is recirculated into the bloodstream.
LDL serves many important functions in the brain and body, however, when LDL oxidizes, it becomes VLDL. It is VLDL that leads to the development of plaque in your arteries. A glucose rich environment that occurs from eating grain-based foods, encourages the production of destructive molecules called advanced glycation end products (AGEs) that oxidize LDL.
Furthermore, when insulin is high, there is an increase in the conversion of gamma linolenic acid into arachidonic acid, causing an elevated level or arachidonic acid, which then leads to an increase in pro-inflammatory mediators known as prostaglandins and cytokines that increase inflammation.
In the Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living, Drs. Volek & Phinney, explain, “biomarkers for diabetes and metabolic syndrome like CRP c-reactive protein, IL-6 interleukin 6, palmitoleic acid, serum triglycerides, as well as the size of LDL and levels of HDL all show striking improvements on a well formulated high fat and low carb diet.” “The strongest correlation between a major dietary nutrient and blood levels of saturated fat is with dietary carbohydrates not with saturated fat intake.”
For these reasons, the consumption of bread can be a primary contributory to cardiovascular disease, neurological disorders, obesity and more.
Dr. David Perlmutter states, “researchers have known for some time now that the cornerstone of all degenerative conditions, including brain disorders, is inflammation. But what they didn’t have documented until now are the instigators of that inflammation—the first missteps that prompt this deadly reaction. And what they are finding is that gluten, and a high-carbohydrate diet for that matter, are among the most prominent stimulators of inflammatory pathways that reach the brain.” “Inflammation is the cornerstone of Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis – all of the neurodegenerative diseases are really predicated on inflammation.”
Don’t Listen to Oprah
These are just some of the ways that eating bread can be harmful to your mental and physical health. Research is continually documenting a growing body of evidence that demonstrates a very long list of consequences from eating grain-based foods like bread. So, please folks, don’t listen to Oprah. Next to eliminating sugar, eliminating bread and other grain-based foods is one of the most important steps you can take to reach a higher level of health and prevent more serious issues from developing in the future. If you need help giving up the carbs, then click here for support and guidance. Fill your plate with animal protein and fat and compliment it with low-starch vegetables and moderate the nuts, seeds and fruit. These are the foods that your body prefers and encourage optimal health.
Jeff Volek PhD, RD and Stephen Phinney, M.D, PhD. The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living. Beyond Obesity, LLC. May 2011.
Davis, William, M.D. Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back to Health. Rodale Books; Reprint edition (June 3, 2014)
Dr. David Perlmutter, Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth About Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar – Your Brain’s Silent Killers. Little, Brown and Company; 1st edition 2013.
Nora T. Gedgaudas, Primal Body Primal Mind: Beyond the Paleo Diet for Total Health and a Longer Life. Healing Arts Press 2011.
Dr. James Greenblatt, Neuroactive Peptides from Common Foods Contribute to Psychiatric Disorders. Great Plains Laboratory. See video above.