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Dirty Dishing: Is gluten bad for me? – Pantry Doctor, LLC

Dirty Dishing: Is gluten bad for me?

With so many myths and misconceptions about nutrition floating around, who do you believe?  I receive so many questions about nutrition and health in general.  I wanted to create a way for me to answer the most common ones that I hear.  Thus, Dirty Dishing was born.  If you’re interested in learning the truth about today’s popular trends and issues, check back from week to week.  If you have questions of your own, leave them in the comments below.   I’m excited to start cleaning up your knowledge of health and wellness one dish at a time!

How could it already almost be Christmas? Wasn’t it just Thanksgiving? Well it is time for another dirty dishing sesh as well.  THIS one happens to be revolving around a topic that I hear on a daily basis so I figured — why not?  Wheat gets a really bad wrap lately.  Critics and the media are especially tough because it contains the evil villain- GLUTEN.

Is Gluten Bad for Me?

First off, all you celiac readers : the dirty in this dish is YES. Your best life is a gluten-free life and here is why.  Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder triggered by ingestion of a gluten protein called gliaden. This protein can be found in wheat, barley, rye and sometimes oats.  When gluten is ingested by someone with celiac disease, it interferes with our body’s ability to absorb the nutrients in the foods by damaging the cells in the small intestine causing them to become very inflamed. Treatment for celiac is simple: a lifelong gluten-free diet.  You celiac’s are snickering right now…simple?! Forget pizzas, Christmas cookies, bread –if they contain gluten. There are a wide variety of symptoms for celiac disease.  To learn more about them, see this checklist.

What about gluten intolerance?? Also known as non-celiac-gluten-sensitivity, this condition is now recognized on some level in the medical community, but there is still much controversy surrounding it. When gluten is ingested, the body has a stress response, but it does not involve our immune system.  Gluten intolerance causes abdominal pain, gas, bloating, and diarrhea.  This could be due to a lack of enzymes to digest the gluten, and if gluten intake is reduced below the intolerance level the symptoms will subside.

Let’s talk about wheat, baby. Let’s talk about you and me.  Let’s talk about all the good things and the bad things that may be….

Let’s talk about wheat; Let’s talk about wheat.

Ladies, all the ladies, comm’on all the ladies…well, those that tolerate gluten.  Come with me to learn more about this very controversial topic as I dish on wheat with Jennifer Lapidus, owner and operator of Carolina Ground in Asheville, NC.


pic via Carolina Ground

You may remember me mentioning this in an earlier blog post on La Farm Bakery in Cary, NC. They get all of their stone ground wheat and rye flour from Carolina Ground.  They don’t have a presence in Greenville yet, but they would love to!

She was happy to sit down and chat, and one of the first topics that came up was all of the misconceptions around wheat, including GMO’s.

“I’ll get emails, and posts, and I don’t even know where to begin,” Jennifer states, “The premise is just not quite right or true.  There is so much information out there”.

Her career began as a wood fired baker working with natural leavening.  She milled her own flour in the early 90’s.  “I did this because I felt that bread did not feed us.  Bread was giving us nothing, except for what was going on in the San Francisco baking scene.  They had these pretty sexy white breads using a pinch of yeast and sourdough culture.  European traditions were not happening to the degree that they were pre-World War 2,” she explains.

“I was driven personally as a history major in college, I felt like there had to be a story that goes back beyond this ‘rapid-rise yeast packets’ that we see in the grocery store. So I sought my own path towards that and landed a couple of apprenticeships”.  She learned the method of desem which is from the Flemish region of Belgium. “Cultures occur naturally on the grain itself that cause it to leaven,” she explains.  “You have breakdown of phytic acid, you have predigestion of bran which actually absorbs the nutrients.  You have bread, you know? REAL BREAD”.

She starting baking in a wood-fired oven and milling her own grain because back then she “felt that bread was meant to be baked in that manner”.  There was a movement then to revive the culture of the bread and the oven.  After 14 years, she got burned out.  She was raising a family and baking bread and there really weren’t the exciting models that we have going on today.  She was on the pioneering end of it.  During this time, she got her Masters in writing, and just around 2008, the price of wheat went up over 100%.  The baker was left with low quality wheat and a price that was higher than they could pass on for local bread.  “I know in this community, the buyer was complaining about quality of the flour, and they weren’t buying what they normally would.  Then I learned about some bread wheats were released from the USDA around this time.  They started breeding them for the Southeast — and this is not GMO,” she explains.  “It is all old school breeding.  The fact that we are working with a public breeder is huge.  A public breeder is like a servant to us. Our wheat is modern, and regionally adapted”.  They work with someone that is shaping wheat for them locally, not for industrializing the bread.  “He is working with us regionally because he literally cares that we care about taste.  This is something that is so unique and different,” she says.

Baker, Lionel Vatinet, Miller, Jennifer Lapidus, and farmer, Billy Carter

W: So it is a lot like farmers breeding for different types of squash? 

J: Yes! Everyone is hating on wheat and now we are lucky that we have some other varieties that we can work with.  I mean, we love true heritage varieties as well.  Realistically, with the conservative Southern farmers, we have some organic growers but we have conventional as well.

W: The word heritage has cropped up a lot lately. Can you explain this? 

J: The heritage is great, but so is the modern.  We need them both.

W: This reminds me of the “what belly” book.. 

J: Yes! It is like this is good.  That is bad.  NO, its not that simple.  The older stuff is harder to work with.  As it digests well in our bodies, the modern stuff really responds well to fermentation.  It’s great.

W: So its like sprouted vs. non-sprouted? Sprouted are technically easier to digest.  

J: You can sprout any grain.  I definitely have my issues with the wheat belly book.  I have had people say to me “wheat sucks”. I mean, WOW.  That is some serious hatred! You know? It’s a plant –leave it alone! When I started my bakery, I made bread the way that I did because I felt that THAT was what made the bread more digestible, and it does.  It does.  I’m talking about the process of baking naturally leavened bread versus just putting yeast and a straight dough.  This is one point that would make bread more digestible.  Another point would be: in this mill, we cold stone mill our product versus industrialized roller mills.  We keep our temperatures below 100 degrees. We do intact milling, which means the germ, bran, and endosperm are all crushed together.  Even if you sifted out the bran, you would still see the oils from that germ.  The roller mill separates out these parts and literally re-blends it back together.  The goal for these mills is efficiency and shelf life –which is great if you want to feed the world. I mean, BUT there is also enrichment .

W: So its much more processed. 

J: Right. On paper this worked great.  People have food allergies and they can’t understand why, but they are eating this industrial product.  Now we are going back to stone to provide really high quality flours.  We are working with large scale organic growers in this region, and we are working with a breeder that really cares about what we are after.  Most of our bakeries are small to medium size bakeries.  The bakers are doing really high quality breads.  We have La Farm Bakery and Flat Rock Village Bakery to name a couple.

I really want to focus more on sourcing of quality ingredients with my blog readers next year.  I am a dietitian and when I talk to clients one-on-one, I tell them they need to look for certain items and no one knows where to go to actually get them.  So, to me, sourcing high quality food is an important part of being healthy.  

I was thankful for Jennifer’s hospitality with me as she showed me around her mill.  I can tolerate gluten, thank goodness, but I also choose to only buy bread from small local bakers or sprouted in the refrigerated section.  I feel truly nourished after this interview.  That, and I have one more loaf of bread from La Farm in the freezer.




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  1. Very interesting read! I eat gluten free due to a hormone condition that causes a lot of inflammation. My dr has been recommending a gluten free diet for years, and I must say, I do feel better and I was able to cut back on my hormone medications. It’s been an interesting experience!

  2. Lots of great information here. I can eat gluten and try to buy all whole wheat products. I don’t like when anything is enriched because that processing of it even more hurts my boys’ tummies. I need to find a good bakery here to start getting our bread. Thank you again for all the information.

  3. Wow! I didn’t know a lot of this. For years I had to eat gluten free because of a reaction I had that the doctors thought was gluten related. I started eating healthier and exercising and eventually was able to put gluten back in my diet. I don’t know why it works that way, but it did. Anyway, thanks for sharing!

    • Hi Cassie! Chances are that the cells in your gut were pretty damaged do to poor diet. When you changed your habits and lifestyle, those can be restored too, and your body is able to eliminate the part of the gluten that causes that reaction. When our gut cells become damaged, the cells allow things to be absorbed that shouldn’t and it causes that reaction. Glad to hear you are doing well now!! 🙂 xoxo-Wendie

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