Food & NutritionIssue 11 • March 2013

Why your healthy whole grains could be making you sick

I’ve been researching different diets for years. When I started doing clinic work, I became bombarded with questions from patients about every diet imaginable. So I did what any doctor that cares about their patients should do, I bought books and read. I read books and research by leading doctors and nutritionists such as Agatston, Heller, Harper, Atkins, Ornish, and Clautier, to name a few. I wanted to be informed when someone had a question. I always try to follow the evidence though and the evidence kept bringing me back to the information I was taught in Palmer Chiropractic College, The Paleo Diet.

The Paleo Diet has become more mainstream in recent years due to the recommendations by physicians and its popularity among the CrossFit community. The basic idea behind the diet is to eat fruits, vegetables, lean healthy meats, healthy fats, nuts, seeds, and spices and to avoid grains, dairy, legumes (beans), and sugar. Most people seem to have the hardest time understanding why grains are avoided. My hope is that by presenting you with a few facts about grains, I will peak your interest about the rest of the diet and cause you to seek out further information, thus living a long and healthy life of eating Paleo. So, here goes…

Grains contain phytates. Phytates are used by molecular chemists to bond to metal ions. They are used in this fashion because they are one of the strongest bonding agents to metal that is known. Phytates in grains serve the purpose of binding to calcium, copper, magnesium, iron, zinc, and other necessary metal ions to help keep those nutrients in the plant. Unfortunately, when you eat phytates these bonds are not broken when they enter your system. They continue to keep hold of these minerals and inhibit you from digesting them. Believe it or not, the more “whole” your grain is, the more phytate it has, and the less good stuff you will absorb because it’s all bound to the phytate. Bottom line: when you eat grains, you consume phytates, they bind to the above minerals making you not absorb them, and you may potentially end up with something along the lines of osteoporosis or iron deficiency anemia.

Grains contain lectins. This could be the most dangerous part of a grain. Lectins wreak havoc on your intestinal lining. When they are consumed, they bind to the part of your intestinal wall that acts as a one way valve allowing good things to pass into your blood stream. When binding to the one way valve occurs, the lectins destroy the valve and allow anything and everything that wants to leak from your colon into your abdomen, to do so. When these unidentified objects are discovered by your body, your immune system does not recognize them and begins to try to attack them. Once this immune response begins, your body becomes confused on what is bad and what is good and starts to attack things like your skin (psoriasis) or your joints (arthritis). Research is now showing that there could be a strong association between lectins and autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis.

Grains are typically consumed in a refined state. This means that they are ground down to a substance that is easy to digest and therefore raises your blood sugar. When you consistently raise your blood sugar, that sugar can begin a process in your joints known as glycation. Glycation is the modification of joint cartilage from a soft cushion like material to a dry and brittle material. This leads to joint inflammation, damage, and pain.

These three culprits of grains only graze the surface; there are many other side effects from the makeup of grains and their consumption in our modern diets. I hope I have inspired you to read more about why the “healthy whole grain” really isn’t that healthy at all. Give it a try, eliminate grains from your diet for four weeks and see how much better you feel.

My website,, has a link on how to decrease grains in your diet and we update our Facebook page with recipe ideas and general health information. I also recommend reading the blogs of Mark Sisson (, Robb Wolf (, and Loren Cordain ( Their blogs are constantly updated with the latest research and information regarding diet.

Dr. Christopher Land

Dr. Christopher Land

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