Grains. There’s more to it than just gluten.

Just browsing for articles and research today, I’ve accumulated a few studies you may find interesting.

I especially like this topic because it gets beyond the “gluten free” crowd, who think they can be healthy by simply avoiding dairy and gluten. The problem is, “they” (food makers) can still make the same junk gluten free. So you might be avoiding gluten, but you’re still eating crap.

So here I’ll get into the nitty gritty stuff. Beyond gluten.

Wheat Germ Agglutinin

Link to the study


  • WGA – a lectin (protein) found within wheat products likely survives the high temperatures of food production and cooking, at least enough to be ingested, where it can survive digestive processes.
  • Surviving digestion allows it to interact with the lining of the gut.
  • There is significant interaction and cross-talk between the gut barrier, the host immune system, and gut bacteria, all combining to help regulate normal physiological function.
  • WGA, in minute concentrations, can interfere with and impair this regulatory process.
  • The interference of WGA can trigger an inflammatory process, which, once initiated, may establish a positive feedback system which further disrupts the integrity and function of the gut.
  • WGA can be taken from the gut and pulled through into systemic circulation where it can interact directly with the blood-borne immune system.


Link to the study


These plant lectins appear to have the ability to instruct your liver and fat cells to undertake certain functions in the same way that insulin otherwise would, but without the presence of glucose to drive this (as might otherwise be expected with insulin).  Importantly, these lectins are as effective as shutting down the breakdown of fat within fat cells.  Not ideal.

Phytic Acid

Link to the study


Phytic acid might also cause some direct damage to the absorptive capacity of the intestine. The reduced active ion transport by [phytic acid] implies that the latter reduces the capacity of the small intestine to absorb nutrients.


Link to study [1]


“L-canavanine is a common non-protein amino acid found naturally in alfalfa sprouts, broad beans [also known as “fava beans”], jack beans, and a number of other legume foods [including sword beans] and animal feed ingredients at up to 2.4% of food dry matter. This analog of arginine (Figure 1.) can also block NO synthesis, interfere with normal ammonia disposal, charge tRNAarg, cause the synthesis of canavanyl proteins, as well as prevent normal reproduction in arthropods and rodents.

Canavanine has also been reported to induce a condition that mimics systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) in primates, to increase antibodies to nuclear components and promote SLE-like lesions in auto immune-susceptible (e.g., (NZB X NZW)F1) mice.”

Link to study [2]


“Alfalfa sprouts can induce systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) in monkeys. This property of alfalfa sprouts has been attributed to their non-protein amino acid constituent, L-canavanine. Occurrence of autoimmune hemolytic anemia and exacerbation of SLE have been linked to ingestion of alfalfa tablets containing L-canavanine. In this report we show that L-canavanine has dose-related effects in vitro on human immunoregulatory cells, which could explain its lupus-inducing potential”

Link to study [3]


“In this article, we detail our experience with a human subject who developed autoimmune hemolytic anemia while participating in a research study that required the ingestion of alfalfa seeds. Subsequent experimental studies in primates ingesting alfalfa sprout seeds and L-canavanine (a prominent amino acid constituent of alfalfa) is presented. The results of these studies indicate a potential toxic and immunoregulatory role of L-canavanine in the induction of a systemic lupus-like disease in primates.”

So, canavanine mimicks arginine, and is incorporated into our tissues like arginine, but the resulting proteins don’t function properly. Also, since it’s an amino acid, it’s not deactivated by heat or cooking. When people say  “Beans are fine if you soak or sprout them”, we must realize, this isn’t even true according to the tiny fraction of legume biochemistry we understand.

More L-Canavanine reading regarding it’s autoimmune effects, biological activity and toxicity: [4] [5] [6]

Notable mention: Vicene.

Vicine (and its analogs covicin and isouramil) is a poison in fava beans that causes hemolytic anemia in susceptible people—a sometimes-fatal condition known as favism. Favism is caused by G6PDH deficiencies, common X-linked mutations which affect over 400 million people worldwide, mostly in Africa, the Middle East, and southern Asia.

So what?

Combine a diet high in cereal grains, low in total fat, low in saturated fats, and possibly low in high quality animal proteins, and it’s obvious why an individual might start to run a deficiency in iron, calcium, magnesium, zinc, B-vitamins, etc.  Some people will argue that grains can be a good source of many nutrients… in the lab.  These same people need to understand the difference between ingestion and digestion.  Just because a food has a particular nutrient profile analysed in a lab setting, it does not mean it can be digested and absorbed by the body.  Grains in particular are spectacularly good and binding nutrients, minerals especially, and preventing them from being absorbed (grain intake might even see a higher turnover in the likes of vitamin D). 

So you’re not doing yourself any favors by trying to carb load on grains. Especially athletes. Where the goal is to minimize inflammation, grains have an incredibly pro-inflammatory tendency. You need to start using clean carb sources like sweet potatoes, potatoes, squash, and other starchy vegetables. You’ll be able to avoid the inflammation, gut stress and emegency sideline bathroom breaks, along with the bloating and discomfort. At the same time you’ll be getting many times more vitamins and minerals in your diet, a key for proper recovery and immune function.


4 thoughts on “Grains. There’s more to it than just gluten.

  1. It seems to me that you are simply attacking any diet that is not Paleo. On a gluten and dairy free diet it is not necessary to eat junk food. I am following a gluten and dairy free diet, and am not “still eating crap”. If you would like to see a sample of what I eat on a gluten and dairy free diet, I posted it on my blog. You mentioned that the gluten and dairy free diet can be low in many categories. If done correctly, this is not the case.

    I have Crohn’s disease, so I deal a lot with digestion and the bathroom. Since going gluten and dairy free, I have been significantly less bloated and have had bowl movements every day and no “emergencies”. It is foolish to say that gluten and dairy free diets are lacking in vitamins and minerals. On my gluten and dairy free diet, I am getting more vitamins and minerals than most people can even imagine.

    It seems that you very fond of simply pasting multiple studies onto your blog to prove your points. The thing is, I can find studies to prove almost anything I want. At the end of the day, actions speak louder than words. You seemed awfully quick to attack a gluten and dairy free diet , and you seem equally eager to slam every diet that is not Paleo. I have posted my daily diet, as well as the supplements I take supplements, and also have multiple pictures of how going gluten and dairy free has effected my health. I also have blood work that proves that I am not deficient in nutrients on a gluten and dairy free diet. If you would so like, I will happily compare my blood work, which was taken very recently, to yours. As well, I have numerous pictures of what I look like on a gluten and dairy free diet, but I have yet to see you post a single photo of yourself.

    Next time, please be sure to not to condemn a particular diet for no good reason. There is junk/crap food to be had on any diet, the key is to eat healthy. The things you mentioned may not be good for you, but they are not necessary to have on a gluten and dairy free diet.

    I was reading your story, and you said that once you went Paleo, “muscle became almost effortless to attain”, and your soreness was nonexistent. It is impossible to never be sore if you train hard, no matter what food you eat. Please just post a picture of yourself; you say so much how you have been able to put on so much muscle, let me see what this Paleo diet did for you.

    • I have pictures in “My Progress” section, as well as copies of my workout logs as they have progressed. The gains I have attained are only within the course of a year roughly, without drugs, and by my own trial and error, which is pretty good in my view. Considering I have been lifting for about 4 years, and only recently saw results, I would consider myself a hard-gainer. So I’m very happy with how far I’ve come within one year.

      I’m not attacking any diet that is not paleo, but I do like to raise questions. These are things that need to be considered. Sice all you are getting with grains is cheap sugar calories, what’s the point? If you have a really high activity level, you should get your carbs from cleaner sources. Being that chrons is aggrivated by certain foods, it makes it more difficult, but not impossible.

      And not attacking your diet, otherwise I would have said “Specner, you fucking not paleo so your diet sucks”, but I didn’t. Just pointing out that there’s a lot of crap out there that attempts to mimick healthy food with the label of “gluten free” or “dairy free”, or whatever. There’s even shit labeled “paleo” that really is not.
      And you’re right about being able to find studies to support just about any opinion, the trick is to decipher the good ones from the bad ones.

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