Good bread is the most fundamentally satisfying of all foods; and good bread with fresh butter, the greatest of feasts. – James Beard, “the Dean of American Cookery.”

If what James Beard said is true, why has the prayer of so many become, “Deny us today our daily bread”?

Is this gluten-free craze nothing more than the newest trendy diet, or is there something to it?

But I think you’ll have to admit there’s more than meets the eye here. After all, most of us grew up eating bread without a problem, but now a third of Americans are weaning themselves from gluten.[1] So, what gives?

chemical fertilizers on wheat creates gluten sensitivityAnd what is gluten anyway?

Gluten is a protein found in grains like wheat, barley, rye and most whole grains. Gluten is what helps bread rise to become nice and fluffy when baked. Whole grains like quinoa, millet, buckwheat and amaranth are actually seeds and not grains and do not contain gluten.

As we sift through the available information about gluten-free eating, we discover that there seems to be two primary camps on the issue of gluten-free. One camp is represented by the institutionalized medical community. They admit that there is a problem, but that it’s limited to a very small number of people.

As few as 1% of Americans actually suffer from Celiac disease and a few other percent are “sensitive to gluten” and “may feel better on a diet with less gluten.”[2] The advice of the mainstream medical community is not to go gluten-free if you don’t have to, because a GF diet may lack the necessary vitamins, minerals and fiber.[3]

This camp explains that eliminating a whole category of food risks nutritional deficiencies and this is not something you should do casually. They also warn that many gluten-free alternatives are packed with sugar and fat.[4]

The medical community says that they don’t know why the gluten-free market is exploding, but they suspect that people may simply think it’s healthier.[5]

We don’t want to dismiss what the mainstream medical community has to say, but as in many cases, I believe their training has biased their judgment and they may not be looking at all the data.

In between the two camps is the food manufacturing industry that is raking in the cash as sales of gluten-free products continue to rise. The gluten-free craze has swelled by 27% since 2009. Sales were expected to total $10.5 billion in 2013 and top $15.6 billion by 2016.[6],[7]

The other camp also consists of reputable experts who are asking some tough questions and looking at other data in addition to that above. One question they raise is why Celiac disease has increased four-fold in the past half-century?[8] Even in the past decade gluten intolerance has risen almost 19-fold![9] What has changed in past years that might influence this?

This second camp raises at least three suggestions as to why gluten intolerance has increased so rapidly over the past few decades.

First, sulfur and nitrogen fertilizers can change the proteins in wheat, but research is lacking to show whether there is a solid connection. Still, the sharp rise in sensitivity to gluten during the years when chemical fertilizers were introduced seems like no coincidence.[10]

A second possible reason for the increase in Celiac disease and sensitivity to gluten may be found in the way we bake bread. The old world approach to bread-making used a sourdough process based on lacto-fermentation. This process requires a much longer rising time (overnight or even longer), so ready-to-use yeasts were developed to drastically cut rising time and speed up the baking process.[11]

We now know, however, that lacto-fermentation can reduce gluten levels significantly. In one study, sourdough bread made with wheat had gluten levels of only 12 parts per million. Anything under 20 ppm is considered gluten-free. In that study, using the same wheat but without lacto-fermentation, the gluten levels measured 75,000 ppm![12]

sour dough has less glutenThis second camp suggests a third cause for the sharp rise in overall gluten sensitivity—super hybridization and chemical and radiological mutation.[13] Technically, wheat grown in the US has not been “genetically modified.” However, it has undergone significant changes in its genetic structure nonetheless.

Dr. Mark Hyman, MD, (a non-traditional doctor) is so thoroughly convinced of the genetic alterations that have been introduced into our modern wheat that he refers to it as “Frankenwheat”.[14] He explains that modern wheat contains a super starch, so that two slices of white or whole wheat bread will raise your blood sugar more than two tablespoons of refined sugar.[15]

Consider the number of chromosomes in ancient wheat compared with modern wheat. Einkorn, the oldest known wheat, contains just 14 chromosomes. Whereas durum wheat (used in pasta) has twice that number and common wheat (used for nearly everything else) has three times that number of chromosomes.[16]

With its 14 chromosomes, einkorn produces a small number of gluten proteins and those that it does contain are the least likely to cause sensitivity to gluten.[17] It’s no wonder that many people who are sensitive to gluten are able to tolerate einkorn and other ancient grains.[18]

You may consider yourself lucky not to have Celiac disease, but the super-gluten in modern breads can also cause inflammation, heart disease, obesity, diabetes and cancer.[19]

What do we do with all this information? I think we can learn from both camps. So, here are 5 ways to reckon with gluten:

  1. If you suspect you might have Celiac disease, don’t rely on self-diagnosis, but have your doctor test you.
  2. If you go GF, make sure you’re getting the nutrients, minerals and fiber you need from other healthy foods.
  3. Be wary of gluten-free products. Read the labels and make sure you know what you’re eating.
  4. Try ancient grains and flours like farro, einkorn, emmer, and spelt. Even if you’re not sensitive to gluten, these can be a much healthier choice.
  5. Consider baking your own bread using the sourdough method to significantly cut the amount of gluten.

You don’t have to give up your “daily bread”— I certainly don’t intend to! But with other ancient and whole grains and the old-style method of baking bread, we can still enjoy bread – the most fundamentally satisfying of all foods!


Rob_FischerRob Fischer has been writing professionally for over 35 years. His experience includes writing curricula, study guides, articles, blogs, newsletters, manuals, workbooks, training courses, workshops, and books. Rob has written for numerous churches, for Burlington Northern Railroad, Kaiser Aluminum, and Barton Publishing. He has also trained managers in effective business writing. Rob holds two Master’s degrees, both focused heavily on writing. Rob has published eleven books and serves as an editor and ghostwriter for other authors.



[1] Kris Gunnars, “6 Reasons Why Gluten May Be Bad for You,” Authority Nutrition, nd,
[2] Peter Jaret, “The Truth about Gluten,” WebMD, March 2, 2011,
[3] Peter Jaret.
[4] Leslie Goldman, “To Be or Not to Be Gluten-Free?” Fitness, nd,
[5] Peter Jaret.
[6] Stephanie Strom, “A Big Bet on Gluten-Free,” New York Times, February 17, 2014, on-gluten-free.html?_r=0.
[7] Elaine Watson, “What’s the Size of the US Gluten-Free Prize? $490m, $5bn, or $10bn?” Food, 17 February 2014,
[8] Whole Grain Council, “Research Sheds Light on Gluten Issues,” January 25, 2012,
[9] Stephen Scott, “What’s Wrong with Our Wheat?”, May 23, 2013,
[10] Whole Grain Council.
[11] Whole Grain Council.
[12] Whole Grain Council.
[13] Stephen Scott.
[14] Dr. Mark Hyman, MD, “Three Hidden Ways Wheat Makes You Fat,” January 25, 2013, makes-you-fat/#close.
[15] Dr. Mark Hyman, MD.
[16] Whole Grain Council.
[17] Dr. Mark Hyman, MD.
[18] Nourished Kitchen, “Good Questions: Einkorn, Spelt, Emmer, Farro and Heirloom Wheat,” February 10, 2014,
[19] Dr. Mark Hyman, MD.