Count those Carbs. But don’t forget the Grains!

Grains have been part of the human diet for centuries, but can cause us more harm than good.

The Real Meal Revolution food lists were developed to help people control what they eat. What we've found is that people incorrectly assume that red list food items need to be avoided because they have a high carb count. While these lists are drafted with Banting in mind, the carb count is not the sole reason for classifying an ingredient as 'red', 'orange' or 'green'. Many ingredients are classified as red, simply because of their effects on our bodies.

Grains, for example, have been part of the human diet for centuries, but can cause us more harm than good.

Dr Alessio Fasano is one of the world's leading digestive system specialists. His research provides much of what we know about celiac disease and gastrointestinal issues. Dr Fasano is also credited with the discovery of a zonulin, an enzyme found in our intestine that helps regulate intestinal permeability. It controls what moves through the intestinal wall and into our bloodstream.

The intestine is our immune system's first line of defence. The cells of the intestinal wall are connected together by structures called tight junctions. During the normal digestion process the tight junctions stay closed and make sure that nothing can move through the wall without passing through the cells first. They act as a screen, forcing digested bits to pass into the blood stream through the correct channels (think of them like bouncers at the front of a classy night club).

Grains, however, contain something called lectins. These are part of their defence mechanism against predators (like us). They're extremely difficult for us to digest as our digestive enzymes simply aren't strong enough to break them down.

The problem is that the intestinal cells see lectins as simple sugars and 'willingly' transport them through the intestinal wall. It's only once the lectins are outside the gut that the body recognises them and so produces antibodies against these foreign proteins. The antibodies are pretty strong and can damage the intestinal wall and cause inflammation. This inflammation can cause the tight junctions to tear apart, literally tearing holes in the intestine. Both of these processes lead to a phenomenon known as leaky gut.

Leaky Gut is a condition that occurs when the intestinal wall is damaged to the point where it's no longer performing its biological function properly. Think of the intestinal wall like a fine net, with holes just big enough to allow the right things through. With Leaky gut, this net is damaged and torn, allowing larger particles to flow through. The fallout results in larger, undigested food molecules and other "bad stuff" (yeast, toxins, and other forms of waste) that your body normally doesn't allow through, flowing freely into your bloodstream.

Another substance that our bowels don't take too kindly to is gliadin. Gliadin is found in wheat gluten and is what gives wheat bread its doughy texture. In the right amounts, gliadin will trigger the increased production of zonulin, which in turn creates gaps in the normally tight junctures between intestinal cells.

The indicators of leaky gut may vary from person to person, depending on the level of damage that's taken place. Having a number of food allergies is a possible sign that your body is developing antibodies to everything you're eating. Nutritional deficiencies may be a sign that you're lacking vitamins, which aren't being properly broken down. See-sawing between chronic diarrhoea and constipation are signs of inflammation on your intestinal wall.

Skin issues such as acne or eczema may occur as your body tries to dump the toxins through your skin. In celiac disease, the body makes antibodies to gliadin. This results in inflammation and the further disruption of the digestive process. It's important to note here that the gliadin-zonulin leak effect occurs not just in people with celiac disease or gluten-sensitivity; it occurs in everybody. This is why all things gluten should be avoided!

Our food lists were developed with all this in mind and it's important for us that our Banters are well informed – it's not just about carb count. So the next time you're tempted with a slice of bread or a Granola Bar – remember what you're doing to your gut. It's OK to be obsessed with carbs, but be aware of other food elements that aren't good for you too.

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