In my previous blog, I looked at whether you should eat grains and looked at the evidence for and against their consumption. I also discussed the incidence of Celiac disease and gluten intolerance.

While Celiac disease has been known about for a very long time and was first described as a condition in Ancient Greece, gluten intolerance and sensitivity is a much more recent phenomenon and the two conditions are not the same.

There is no scientific consensus on the prevalence of gluten intolerance or sensitivity, what causes it, or even whether it exists as a condition at all.

Indeed, the obsession with gluten intolerance among certain sections of the health industry is only about a decade old. You could be forgiven for thinking that since we have been cultivating and eating grains, particularly wheat, for around 10,000 years that this explosion of intolerances would have been observed long before now.

Sales of bread and pasta in Britain have dropped by 8.9% and 4.2 % respectively, and gluten free products are now readily available and sales have increased by 15% and are now worth £0.5 billion.

One of the most commonly eaten foods made from grains is bread and it has been a staple in diets across the world for many centuries.

I love bread and it is something I would struggle to remove from my diet. Thankfully bread does not cause me any gastro-intestinal issues, but this is not the case for everyone.

So, this begs the question that if gluten is maybe not the issue it has been made out to be, whether something else is going on?

It has been suggested that gluten isn’t the issue for many people who suffer issues with bread, but that it is the way that most of the bread we buy is made.

In 1961 a technique was developed by bakers called the Chorleywood process, that would transform the way that industrial sized bakers produced bread. This involves combining a cocktail of enzymes, additives and three times as much yeast as is used in traditional bread making. This cut the amount of time required in the process as it eliminated the need to allow the dough to prove. This meant the bread could be baked instantly, lasted twice as long on the shelves and produced a 40% softer loaf.

It has been suggested that it is this process that is causing the gastro-intestinal issues rather than gluten.

It has also been suggested that the type of wheat that is widely used nowadays may be contributing to this issue. Genetically modified dwarf wheat has increasingly been grown over the last 40 years, and unlike the much taller varieties that used to be grown is lower in nutrients and has a smaller variety of gluten proteins.

Unfortunately, the major food companies that produce most of our bread deny that fermentation brings any benefits, but also refuse to provide any evidence that this is the case.

While a US Department of Agriculture 2013 study found no evidence of increased gluten in wheat, a study from Washington State found that gluten levels decrease when bread is left to rise for as long as 12 hours. Extra gluten is often added especially to whole wheat breads as the whole grain contains less gluten than white flour.

So, it isn’t entirely clear what is leading to people having issues with eating bread. Is it gluten or the way the bread is commercially produced? There certainly needs to be more research on the issue, but if commercially mass produced bread causes you issues, try buying bread from independent bakers that use traditional methods, especially breads made from a sourdough mix, which has naturally occurring yeasts, and see if your symptoms still persist.

If you do decide to avoid eating bread or products containing gluten, you should be aware that they will cost you much more than products that contain gluten, and are usually filled with more additives and significantly higher in fat than their normal equivalents. Since gluten helps breads, and other bakery products, retain their shape and softness as they bake, so manufacturers often use additives like xanthan gum and hydroxypropyl methyl cellulose or corn starch to make up for the lack of gluten. Extra sugar and fat are often also added to make products tastier. So, make sure you are aware of this information before purchasing.

As always if you want to find out more about this or any other issue, contact me now.

Published by Neil Elbourne