Now, that is a VERY BIG question and I am not a nutritionist so I certainly cannot provide a scientific answer. However, given that science is based on observation coupled with data, I can provide observations.
During my time as a baker I have met countless people who say that they feel better when they don’t eat wheat. Wheat makes them feel fat, it gives them a tummy ache, it makes them instantly sleepy, it gives them constipation or a runny tummy…etc. There is a difference between being a coeliac and experiencing discomfort when you eat wheat. If you feel discomfort – go get tested. Being a coeliac is serious. If you are coeliac, firstly take it very seriously (it can kill you) and secondly understand that there are many nutritionists out there who believe you may be able reverse your condition by following, for example, the GAPS regime. If you are not coeliac, you can reduce or eliminate the extent to which bread causes you discomfort by eating better bread – bread that is fermented (risen) slowly, bread that is baked with high quality ingredients and bread that is baked without unnecessary additives.
Wheat is plentiful, inexpensive, and can be highly nutritious. People who give up whole food groups voluntarily are privileged – truly – but the better strategy for the privileged is to campaign for the creation of a better product to be enjoyed by all, not just the few. Have you read the ingredients in the average gluten free product or loaf of bread recently? Do you know what is in the flour you buy (and that is bought by industrial bakers)? These are serious questions – and ones I contemplated recently when I was told that my dog’s (that’s right – my dog’s) health problems could be caused by his food.
One year ago, Lex looked like this. One month ago, Lex looked like this. The decline was rapid and alarming. First he stopped barking (as in he became incapable of barking). Then he began to look a bit down in the dumps and he drooled – really drooled – all the time. Then he started throwing up every morning (just water but still) and he had major runny tummy and his hair was all greasy and he smelled and the insides of his ears were grey and his eyes and nose were red and inflamed. We thought it was a cold but when he stopped following me all over the house and just stayed under the table I took him to the vet. What was not wrong with that dog? The vet said he had bad bacteria in his stomach which led to all the symptoms. He was put on antibiotics, probiotics, ointments and unguents for his eyes and his ears and his nose, was forbidden all dairy products and we were told to change his food for another one by a big pet food company that is designed for “skin sensitive” dogs. No change.
Then by chance I met the co-owner of a dog food company called Lily’s Kitchen and she explained that maybe Lex’s food was making him ill. That is what happened to their dog and their concern first led them to make all of Lily’s food and then to set up Lily’s Kitchen, a range of “good for you” dog food. Their philosophy is simple – what is not good enough for them is not good enough for Lily. Lex lives in Mexico City and I met Lily’s Kitchen in London so clearly I cannot buy their food but – never fear – they have a cook book (Lily’s Dinner for Dogs) which they kindly sent to me and what a great read it is.
The book is informative, educational, and comprehensive. In it, the author list the number of calories dogs should have per day (based on weight and level of activity) and every recipe has a calorie count so it’s easy to use. They believe dogs should eat the doggy equivalent of “meat and two veg” – good, plain food with lots of variety so they don’t get bored, and no salt. By contrast, dog food has a lot of fat, sugar and artificial sweeteners, artificial colours, flavours, preservatives, bulking agents that the dog cannot digest (like tomato skins), and seems to be made of animal waste products. Things that should not be eaten by anything – not humans and not dogs. In spite of that, most dogs eat it – so addicted are they to the fat, sugar and salt in the food. So, Lily’s advice is to introduce new food slowly, weaning the dog off the junk food a bit at a time. So that is what I did.
On days one and two, Lex left a war zone of carrots outside his bowl. Like a stubborn child he simply spat them out and ate the dry food he was used to. So I cut them into smaller pieces and hid them in some scrambled egg (which he loves) – fewer wasted carrots. Then I tried beetroot (same routine but then I hid them in little balls of glutinous rice and tuna fish and he scoffed them up). By about day 4 (it did not take long) he was eating ANYTHING I put in front of him – and this included kale, bulgar, rice, black beans, millet, oatmeal, spinach, apples, courgettes, fish, meat, and eggs. There is a lot we have not tried but basically he eats what we eat – although in a more “original” combination and form. He even drinks home made keffir – one bowl a day. And although he is kind of excited at the rustling noise that indicates his old “chewies” are being opened (we have some to use up) he is not actually interested in eating them. They used to disappear in a flash and now I find them hours later, abandoned in some corner of the courtyard. The home made kibble, on the other hand (Lily believes in a mixture of wet and dry food), he LOVES. CRUNCH CRUNCH and it’s gone. One day ago, Lex looked like this (I tried to photograph his nose so you could see the difference, but he’s not a cooperative model): He has not vomited once. The runny tummy is gone. He smells nice and does not have bad breath. He is basically bright eyed and bushy tailed.
Among other things (most of which are chemical and so need no translation) it contains high fructose corn syrup, trans fats, and artificial food colouring. Admittedly it is FAR WORSE than industrially made bread in the UK – but the UK is not far ahead and if Bimbo does invest in Premier Foods (the owner of Hovis) what next for UK bread? Have a read and have a think. Change your bread and you could change your life.