This image really says it all. (Giberella mold on corn, a common source of mycotoxins)
(Again...) Toxins Are Your Enemy
It feels a bit like stating the obvious or an overplayed record, but I really can't emphasize it enough: toxins are the enemy of vibrant health and high performance. Toxins trigger inflammation, disrupt metabolism and mess with hormonal balance. Which is a slightly more complicated way of saying toxins make you feel and perform worse than you should.
An unfortunate reality of the hugely complex modern food system is that there are many sources of damaging toxins that slip under most people's radar. Or even worse, information about the presence of toxins in certain foods is intentionally hidden from consumers. WIth corn and wheat, the subject of scrutiny of this article, both scenarios play into why so few people are aware of the toxicity of these two (unfortunately) ubiquitous foods.
(Another source that slips under the radar for a lot of people is toxic damaged fats in cooking oils, which I covered in Synchro Life Design #5)
It's All About Mycotoxins
By this point, everyone knows about the problems caused for a lot of people by the gluten protein in wheat. (I'll cover this later) For now, we don't even need to mention gluten to find more than enough reason to get wheat out of your diet.
Mycotoxins are probably the single biggest source of hidden toxins in our foods, and wheat and corn are the biggest sources of mycotoxins in our food supply. Mycotoxins are the natural byproducts of mold in food. Molds are very good at pumping toxic chemicals (mycotoxins) out into their environment to ensure that no other strains of mold or bacteria come in and out-compete them for their food source (i.e. whatever they're growing on). If mycotoxins can stunt the growth or even kill other strains of bacteria and fungus, you'd be right to guess that you really don't want mycotoxins in your body. Mycotoxins have been connected to hormone disruption, immunosuppression, increased inflammation and even cancer. Needless to say, all stuff you want to avoid.
Every time you eat food contaminated with mycotoxins, you are essentially exposing yourself to low levels of highly toxic chemicals. Mycotoxins also tend to be stored in the body, so they accumulate over time and the effects become more pronounced. If you've been eating wheat and corn for your whole life, you are already experiencing negative effects from mycotoxins. Wouldn't you like to know how you would feel and perform if you weren't? ...I did too. So I pulled mycotoxin sources out of my diet and let my body detox. Good move, I promise you.
Why Wheat And Corn?
So why single out these two grains? Let's look at how they are produced. Wheat and corn are two of the two biggest agricultural products in the US. It's really hard to fathom the scale that these grains are produced on. The part of the farming process that's important here is storage, which generally happens in huge grain silos, where harvested grains sometimes sit for months before going to market. While the grains sit in these silos, they are highly susceptible to mold. A review of US crops found that 92% of corn tested had some level of mycotoxins present and almost 80% of wheat tested showed mycotoxins.
(AFM1 through T-2 represent different mycotoxins. AFM1 and OTA are aflatoxin and ochratoxin, respectively, both highly disruptive toxins. Really, the important thing to take away form this chart is that wheat and corn suck.)
What To Do?
Unfortunately, cooking does almost nothing to mycotoxins. If there is any living mold left on the food, cooking will usually kill the mold, but the mycotoxins are very resistant to heat and will not be affected.
There's really no way around it; If you're serious about avoiding mycotoxins, you have to pull wheat and corn out of your diet. It may sound like a big task at first, but really it's just a switch to grains that don't bring mycotoxins with them. Rice and quinoa are naturally more resistant to mold and are generally not stored in ways that are vulnerable to mold. Once you start to look, you'll realize that there are quality alternatives to conventional wheat and corn products (bread, flour, pasta, tortillas, etc).
Another source to be particularly mindful of is beer. Almost all beer uses wheat and/or corn, and the grains used in beer production is generally lower quality (read: more mycotoxins) than wheat used for food products. As such, the levels of mycotoxins in beer is often very high. If you're going to drink, it's best to stick with liquors that don't use grains like vodka, tequila and rum. Wine is also a way better choice than beer, but wine will occasionally have moderate levels of mycotoxins, so it's not quite as safe as liquors.
Still Not Sold On The "No Gluten" Thing?
This is a topic that's been written about endlessly over the past 5-8 years, so I'll only take a moment to highlight the reasons why wheat sucks so much.
- It's been repeatedly estimated that 50% of the population in allergic or intolerant to wheat gluten. Some experts put that number as high as 75%. Until you get tested to confirm you're not among those with a sensitivity, it's wise to assume you are.
- When you are intolerant to wheat gluten, it creates an inflammatory response that effects the whole body, the GI tract being the most effected. When the GI tract is inflamed, it is unable to absorb nutrients effectively and digestive issues are common.
- The inflammatory effect of gluten can last days, so you can't get away with thinking the effects will only set you back for a few hours.
- Wheat is rich in the carbohydrate Amylopectin A. This specific carbohydrate has a disproportionate effect on insulin levels, causing your body to store more of your meal as fat. Which is another way of saying...
- Wheat makes you fat.
It's Easier Than You Think!
Between mycotoxins, inflammatory gluten and carbs that make you fat...I hope you now have enough reasons to cut out wheat. Wheat is unquestionably the first to cut out. Corn is not far behind, though. The levels of mycotoxins in corn are dangerously high. That being said, if you're out at a Mexican restaurant and you must choose between the two, corn is a (marginally) better choice.
There are more choices than ever for wheat- and corn-free options. If you haven't looked around your grocery store for them before, you'll probably be surprised at how available they are. The gluten-free movement grows every year as more and more people experience huge gains in well-being and performance from cutting out gluten.
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