By Femi Kusa
Read prices are going to rise; bakers served notice last week, citing a general price riot in the economy as a chief reason. The news shocked many people who eat bread almost everyday or who cannot do without snacks or convenience food made from white flour and/or whole wheat. But it neither disturbed nor concerned me, because I stopped eating bread, “white” or wheat”, about 30 years ago. In fact, I could have said “good riddance to bad rubbish” as we always say when we have the courage or the opportunity to kick health and life-threatening foods out of the diet. In 1977, I learned from author John X Loughran’s book, Ninety Days to a better heart that bread was no longer The Staff of Life
He revealed in the book how a staple diet of white flour bread almost made an invalid of him by weakening his heart and blood vessels, and of how he bounced back to an active, vigorous life in only 90 days of going off this diet and eating better foods. By 1971, I did not need anyone else to educate me about this. I had become a living proof, or a person Alhaji Alade Odunewu would call a “Working Corpse” In his Daily Times newspaper column titled ALLAH-DEH. That was the year Chief Henry Odukomaiya, editor of the Daily Times Newspaper, employed me as a Trainee Sub-Editor. I was a member of the Sub-Editor’s desk, which had to produce four newspaper editions between 3pm and 10pm. There was no time to have a proper meal. So, I subsisted largely on a popular white flour derived snack and heavily sugared “soft drinks”.
In no time, I developed intestinal gas and thought I was going to die. Incidentally, two of my cousins, Sunmisola Oshidipe and Tokunbo-Otusayo died within months of each other at that time! So, I couldn’t help thinking I, too, was billed to go. I no longer could have an enjoyable breakfast of sliced bread, margarine and fried egg with tea and sugar. One slice of bread was enough to make my abdomen roundish, bloated and unable to accommodate anything else. My heart beat was shallow. My skin was getting pale and I was losing weight. Luckily for me, my maternal grandfather was still alive in our village, Isonyin, near Ijebu Ode. He had some knowledge of medicinal herbs and knew a woman who inherited the art from her herbalist husband who had a recipe that could help me. My maternal grandmother took me to him.
The “native doctor”, as natural physicians were then called, gave one of the wives of my uncle, Pa A.T. Olunaike, who accompanied us, some leafy herbs and fish to cook for me. Without cleaning her mouth or speaking with anyone, she was to cook them at dawn with a certain fish. Then, without speaking to me and without me speaking to anyone, I was to rise from bed at cock-crow and consume the soup and fish. It was about the first time in my life that I would have breakfast without brushing my teeth. But I had no choice. It was possible the herbs alone would have worked and that the elaborate protocol was value added gimmick. But I was shocked by the effectiveness of the therapy within hours. I was afraid to eat when a breakfast of corn porridge (pap) was brought to me about two hours after. I ate it and experienced none of the previous symptoms. One or two hours later, I had a meal of rice with no consequences again! Then, confidently, I called for eba and there was “thoroughfare” in my stomach and intestine!
In one week, I was back to the office, my back turned on those popular white flour-derived snacks, white flour bread and its accompaniments. From 1980, I turned to wheat bread. From worship in Sunday, I returned home with enough load of a home-baked brand to last me for one week and to give out as presents. By the 1990s genetically-engineered food crops were in the market. Scientists were changing the positions of genes in the genetic code or formula or adding genes from one crop to those of another or subtracting genes, to achieve whatever goals they wished to realise with these crops.
Thus, tomato got bigger and “refused” to ripen when it was mature for the soup pot so it would not soften and decay during long storage or transportation. Cassava, too, became bigger, more resistant to pesticides and herbicides and mature for harvesting in double quick time. In Akwa Ibom State, a species of this cassava is nicknamed Give me Chance, because it greedily consumes space and edges out other crops in the soil. Sweet potato has become resistant to viruses at a cost to human health. To crack malnutrition in Asia; rice has been fortified with iron and vitamins beyond natural levels. Banana is being used against hepatitis B. Even fish is not left out of man’s tampering with the work of Mother Nature. Many scientific studies warn of the dangers of these doctored crops to health.
The natural structure of any crop produces a specific function in the human body. Thus, change in structures is equal to change in function(s). Genetically-modified tomato or wheat, like their engineered varieties, cannot function in the body like the natural ones. The genetic structure of a food crop produces in the body a specific function and those structural changes imply function changes. Man cannot claim to be wiser than nature for the simple fact that, while his origin lies above the realms of those beings whose works we call nature, his brain, the high point of his body, was fabricated by these beings. Many studies suggest that genetically-modified foods (GMFs) create bowel hypersensitivity, worsen inflammation and damage the bowel lining. GMFs also worsen irritable bowel disease (IBD) and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Furthermore, GMFs induce hepatitis, pancreatitis, kidney and reproductive system problems. In addition, the cascade of health challenges they cause many include haematogical, biological, immunological aberrations and even cancer.
It is important to know that even people who do not experience celiac disease may be sensitive to wheat proteins and gluten from other grains. Inflammation of the intestine is a natural response to irritation by irritants in the diet. It is observed in people who have celiac disease which is caused by wheat proteins or people whose celiac problem come from other sources and is aggravated by wheat protein. For people who are challenged by Amylase Trypsin inhibitor (carbohydrate digesting enzyme), let us note here that Trypsin digests proteins. Their inhibition in the intestine, by whatever agent, can cause immune response which induces inflammation and damage.
That is why we are always told to cook soya bean products properly to overpower their Trypsin inhibitors. Intestinal leakage or permeability is a problem which follows inflammation in the lining of the intestine. There is an elaborate “border patrol” between the intestine and the blood stream. This keeps “aliens” of the blood. The personae non grata include billions of bacteria and viruses which come in with food, indigestible substances like dust and large, undigested food particles. When the aliens get into the blood stream, devastating immune response may occur. Many men today suffer from inflammation of the prostate gland, its enlargement or prostate cancer without relating this challenge to leakage of the colon. The prostrate lies beside the lower end of the colon, while the latter may be leaking. Gluten hastens intestinal leakage through the release of Zonulin. Leaky gut syndrome causes many auto-immune problems such as Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) and systemic lupus erytomatosus. Some people react, unfortunately, to wheat germ agglutinin (WGA). Gliadin is another possible intestinal enemy from wheat, especially the genetically-modified or engineered wheat.
When gluten escapes from the damaged intestinal lining (which it may have helped to damage) and enters the bloodstream, it forms a molecule called Mimicry. Mimicry looks like normal body tissue. The immune system pursues it to where ever it goes…in the linings, joints, organs etc, waging war on whichever organ harbours it in the belief that it, too, is foreign to the body. So, the body begins to attack itself. This is believed to be the story of such intestinal health challenges as Crohn’s Disease, ulcerative colitis (bleeding and inflamed colon), auto-immune thyroid disorder, Type 1 diabetes, fibromyalgia (bone muscle tendon inflammation and pains), auto-immune liver disease and auto-immune skin disease. This problem is widespread.
Meat pie and their cousins come from white flour which comes from wheat. In fact, some infant formulas contain wheat derivatives. Watch children as they suffer from colic, ear infections and asthma, among others. School children go to school with packs of biscuit which come from white flour, derived from wheat. Everyday, advertisement encourages children to ask their parents for damaging foods and snacks while hospital bills rise. Immunity war in the brain may cause attention deficit, mood swings, depression and poor school reports. I am even tempted to wonder what happens when mimicry enters the eye…glaucoma? We cannot in the foregoing context easily delink wheat and its problems from such other troubles as obesity and depletion of friendly bacteria population.
Wheat, also, should not be ignored in undesirable conditions, such as: abdominal gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhoea, heartburn, awfully-smelling stool, relapsing intestinal problems, dermatitis itching, red rash, blisters, eczema and psoriasis. It may be helpful for people who experience some of these symptoms to give up bread (white or wheat), and all wheat products. As I said earlier, I quit bread about 30 years ago. Recently, I added a cassava product the Yoruba call Laafu to my diet. But everyone in my household complained about bloating and “heavy” abdomen after the meal. We suspect it may have been adulterated with white flour to create bulk because, unlike the natural laafu, it is gummy after preparation. Are persons trying to smuggle wheat into the diet of the populace?