Diane Roberts Stoler Ed.D.

The Resilient Brain

Are Grains Destroying Your Health?

Why grains can affect us badly and what you should know

Posted Mar 26, 2018

It seems everyone is giving up grains or going gluten-free these days.  Even pet foods have gone grain-free. Have you ever wondered if giving up grains would improve your health

Why grains can affect us badly

Grains contain proteins, carbohydrates and fats. Many components of grains cause problems to non-herbivore animals and humans including lectins (such as wheat germ agglutinin), saponins, phytates, amylopectin A, gluten, and others. For example, lectins in grains are produced by the plants to kill insects and fungi so that the grain is protected and can serve as seed for new plants. Lectins are also toxic for dogs, cats and humans. They cannot be inactivated with the heat of normal baking or cooking but many can be inactivated by soaking the grains for some days before cooking or by pressure cooking.


Pre-Neolithic man did not eat grain and archeologists found less than 1% of teeth or bones in those skeletons had degenerative disease. Neolithic man started grain agriculture practices and archeologists found up to 47% of teeth were decayed, abscessed or lost and bone disease (osteoporosis) appeared.

  • Autoimmune conditions are the #3 killer in the U.S. after heart disease and cancer – grains have proteins that look like mammal proteins and trigger autoimmune diseases of any kind (read on for explanation).
  • 2 grams of grain flour has enough phytates to almost completely block zinc absorption.
  • 35-45% older adults have zinc deficiency.
  • In 3 ½ ounces of flour there are enough phytates to decrease iron absorption by 80-90%.
  • Gluten is in many cosmetics.  We absorb whatever we apply to our skin just as if we ate it
  • 50% of persons with celiac disease (related to the sensitivity and damage from eating gluten) also have cross-reactivity to casein (the protein in milk and milk products).
  • The top 4 nutritional causes of childhood allergies are:  gluten, casein (milk protein), eggs and soy.
used with permission from Pixabay
Source: used with permission from Pixabay


Wheat Germ Agglutinins:  WGA lectins are in wheat, barley, rye and rice) ---- if WGA is placed on intestinal tissue, it causes glycoproteins to stick to the intestinal cell walls and damage results that
resembles Celiac disease; they are unaffected by boiling, frying, baking or our stomach acid,
but can be inactivated by pressure cooking; when enough intestinal damage has occurred,
undigested proteins including WGA’s leak through the intestinal lining into the bloodstream
and then the WGA’s:

Cause red blood cells to clump together so blood clot potential rises increasing the risk of heart attack and stroke

  • Activate cell division (cancer potential)
  • Enter fat cells and prevent fat release which stops weight loss and increases the body’s demands for sugar to supply energy to our cells and our appetite is increased
  • Block leptin hormone (leptin turns off our appetite when our stomach is full)
  • Block vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP) which: 
    • Reduces our defenses against bad bacteria and parasites in the intestine
    • Increases cortisol secretion from adrenal glands (causing low energy, depression, insomnia, cravings)
    • Decreases protection from multiple sclerosis
    • Increases asthma and pulmonary hypertension
    • Increased intestinal inflammatory diseases (Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis, celiac disease)
    • Increased sleep problems
    • Reduces taste in tongue
    • Increases psoriasis.
  • Bind with glycoproteins in gallbladder and pancreas so no hormones or bile are released for digestion ---- undigested food ferments and decays causing bloating, gas and stool changes; undigested food encourages growth of more decay-causing bacteria which produce toxins that cause inflammatory bowel diseases and poor nutrient absorption
  • Block intrinsic factor protein produced in the stomach stopping vitamin B12 absorption in small intestine (where 60% of all B12 is absorbed normally). B12 deficiency causes many problems such as: peripheral neuropathy, impaired, balance, nervous impairment, pernicious anemia, abdominal pain, enlarged liver, cherry red tongue, decreased concentration and learning ability to name a few.
  • Activate endothelial growth factor 1 ----which stimulates growth of cells lining artery walls, and growth of the smooth muscle cells of arteries, and activates cell stickiness for platelets, increasing the risk of blood clots
  • Impair heart muscle function by causing myocarditis
  • Disrupt skin ---- acne, seborrhea, psoriasis, eczema.

Amylopectin A: a sugar in wheat, oats, barley, millet, sorghum, corn, kamut, rice, spelt, teosinte, emmer, quinoa, bulgur, triticale, amaranth. This sugar is quickly digested and absorbed so it raises blood sugar higher gram for gram than table sugar does. High blood sugar causes the pancreas to release insulin which lowers blood sugar to normal. Repeated high blood sugar followed by low blood sugar over time leads to metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes and the following as well: dementia, anxiety, mental cloudiness, irritability, and hunger for more carbs.

Amylopectin A is converted to triglycerides in the liver which leads to fatty liver and elevated liver enzymes over time. The triglycerides in the liver are very low-density lipoproteins (VLDL) which in the blood interact with large LDL particles and produce LDL smaller particles which are absorbed by inflammatory cells that line blood arteries. Now these blood vessel cells are more prone to glycation and oxidative damage and atherosclerosis occurs.

Bt Toxin: Sprayed on crops or in Genetically Modified (GMO) crops to kill insects; binds to human intestinal cells, damages them, allowing leakage of undigested foods into the blood; Bt corn is implicated in the deaths of cows in Germany, and horses, water buffalo and chickens in the Philippines. (17)

A note about GMO:  Many seeds are genetically modified so the plant crop will be resistant to Roundup so that only the weeds in the fields will be killed. Glyphosate is the active ingredient in Roundup which is absorbed by the crop plants, too. So, we are eating glyphosate with plants that are from treated fields. Glyphosate was also licensed as an antibiotic. It kills good and bad bacteria in our intestines and disrupts folate (an important B vitamin) synthesis by our bacteria.14 The gene inserted into GM soy transfers into the DNA of bacteria in our intestines and our bacteria start producing GM proteins (pesticides) from then on.16 Rats fed GM soy developed liver cell abnormalities and pancreatic enzyme reductions.18,19 Glyphosate, like many antibiotics, also inhibits our body cell mitochondria (the energy producers for our cells) which stops any cell exposed to glyphosate from functioning.

Saponins: In all grains and seeds including quinoa, amaranth and buckwheat. Bind to cholesterol molecules of intestinal cell membranes, disrupt the intestinal barrier and we see increased leakage of undigested food into the bloodstream; saponins can break down red blood cells if they get into the bloodstream across a “leaky gut”; traditional methods of soaking (fermentation) then fermentation can help eliminate most saponins but some require pressure cooking to inactivate them.

Protease Inhibitors: are grain and seed proteins that prevent our enzymes from digesting protein; chronic consumption can cause pancreatic damage; can be inactivated somewhat by boiling or steaming and all can be destroyed by pressure cooking.

Lectins: are glycoproteins in all grains (including quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat, brown rice), seeds (such as flax and chia), legumes (including beans, peas, lentils, soybeans and peanuts) and nightshade vegetables (tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and white potatoes) ---- they kill molds, fungi and insects; lectins are resistant to most cooking methods, all can be inactivated by pressure cooking and many can be destroyed by soaking for some days (changing the water every 8 hours and adding 1 Tablespoon lemon juice OR vinegar OR ½-1 teaspoon baking soda OR a 1- inch strip of kombu seaweed) then boiling; they are toxic to man in the following ways:

  • Some lectins inactivate ribosomes which then stops protein synthesis in our cells.
  • Lectins are protease inhibitors which prevent protein digestion in the intestine.
  • Lectins destroy intestinal lining so that undigested food components then can move through the damaged intestinal lining into the bloodstream causing multiple food sensitivities and autoimmune diseases.
  • Hemagglutinin-lectin binds to carbohydrate receptor sites in intestinal cells which inhibits their nutrient absorption; standard cooking inactivates this lectin.
  • Lectins bind to glycoproteins on human intestinal cells and cause inflammation.
  • Lectins block hormone signals by disrupting glycoprotein hormone receptors (for example in the pancreas, stomach and gall bladder) which reduces digestion.
  • Lectins block Leptin (our satiety hormone that tells us to stop eating when the stomach is full).
  • Lectin intolerance can show as sleep problems as well as digestive issues.

Gluten: a lectin in barley, buckwheat, bulgur, corn, couscous, farina, graham flour, kamut, matzo, oats, rice, rye, semolina, spelt, triticale, wheat, wheat germ. Sprouting the grain or fermenting the grain can reduce gluten content but no guarantees to remove all of it. Gluten is broken down into gliadin and glutenin by an enzyme in the small intestine called tissue transglutaminase (tTG). If a person is sensitive to gliadin, our immune system attacks it with antibodies. These antibodies also attack our own tTG. This is called autoimmune disease. tTG also holds together intestinal lining cells. When antibodies destroy tTG, the intestinal cells erode and allow undigested food through the intestinal wall into the bloodstream. Grain protein also activates zonulin in the small intestine which increases the spaces between intestinal cells so undigested foods can cross into the bloodstream. We then see allergic, autoimmune and other inflammatory conditions increase.

Grain Proteins: stick to small intestine lining cells causing damage and death of the cells which absorb nutrients. This reduces intestinal absorption of vitamin D, calcium, folic acid, all the B vitamins, vitamin C and most water-soluble vitamins, iodine and most of the trace minerals (such as magnesium, boron, and zinc). So, we develop malnutrition and diseases. For example, vitamin C and calcium are the main components of collagen so without these the integrity of joints cannot be maintained and tendons and ligaments more easily break. A decrease in folic acid can cause depression and birth defects.

Other prolamine proteins:  such as avenin in oats, zein in corn, secalin in rye, hordein in barley, and gliadin and zein in corn), glutenins, alpha amylase, and trypsin inhibitors.

  • Molecular mimicry ----grain proteins look like our own body proteins (ie. the transglutaminase enzyme in the intestine and synovial protein in the joints) in the liver, pancreas, intestinal lining, hypothalamus, pituitary, thyroid, joints, reproductive organs, joints, brain, skin and other organs. So, when molecule grain protein goes across the damaged small intestine lining into the blood, we make antibodies against the grain proteins and these antibodies also attack our own organ proteins. This is called autoimmune disease. Gliadin looks like the synopsin 1 protein of neurological tissue so that antibodies we make against the gliadin protein also attack our nerve cells around the body:
    • If nerves to the legs are attacked --- peripheral neuropathy
    • If the vagus nerve to the stomach are affected --- stomach loses ability to propel food into the intestine and we get rotting of food with belching, foul breath, and bloating as bad bacteria multiply
    • If brain cells are affected, signs depend on the brain area affected; these autoimmune effects in the brain can result in autism, seizures, tics, inappropriate emotions, repetitive behaviors (OCD), dementia (can also result from chronic high blood sugar), poor focus, decreased action and result connections, decreased short term memory, cognitive impairment, depression, anxiety, ADHD and ADD behaviors, stumbling, poor coordination
    • If nerves to the heart are affected --- abnormal heart rhythms, PVC’s, atrial fibrillation
  • Gliadin protein --- interacts with macrophages in the intestinal submucosa contributing to autoimmune reactions there.
  • Grain carbohydrate feeds bad bacteria in the intestines ---- overgrowths of bad bacteria can contribute to many disease conditions such as rosacea and other skin conditions, restless leg syndrome, IBS, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, autoimmune diseases, diarrhea, constipation, diffuse muscle pain, nutritional deficiencies, fatigue, and inflammation in joints.
  • Grains and seeds have high quantities of phytates (in hulls or bran of all seeds and grains, beans and nuts) ---- they can be reduced 20-50% by soaking, boiling or fermentation such as in sourdough bread.
  • Phytates bind to minerals so we cannot absorb the minerals; such as iron (causing anemia, fatigue, light- headedness, breathlessness), zinc (causing rashes, diarrhea, hair loss, decreased fertility, impaired growth, decreased neurological maturation), calcium, magnesium and vitamin B12.
  • Phytates also disable the enzymes that digest protein and carbohydrates for us so we become malnourished; can be partially inactivated by bran removal, soaking for 24 hours or longer, sour fermentation or extended sprouting periods (except this actually increases phytates in alfalfa).
  • Grains inhibit omega 3 fatty acid absorption ---Omega 3 fatty acids help control inflammation. So, we see increases in inflammatory diseases in the body.
  • Grain consumption increases blood acidity ---- then bones release calcium to neutralize the blood; the loss of calcium from bone contributes to osteoporosis and osteopenia.

Gliadin Proteins: are digested into small peptides which penetrate the brain and bind to opiate receptors to cause the release morphine-like opiate neurotransmitters which mimic opiate addiction and we see increased appetite for more carbohydrates. Over time of eating grain, we see reduced levels of B vitamins which are required to convert amino acids into brain neurotransmitters and we begin to see disruptions of brain function and decreased communication between the brain and the body. Some of the conditions that can result from this are:

with permission from Pixabay
Source: with permission from Pixabay

Grains contain tannins which are difficult to digest unless soaked in acidic solutions

Grain Flours: Chlorine is used to whiten flours. The chlorine gas reacts with proteins in the flour to produce alloxan. Alloxan causes free radical damage to the DNA of beta cells in the pancreas and destroys them. Beta cells produce insulin which regulates our blood sugar level. This is why alloxan is used to create diabetes in experimental animals. Alloxan also increases liver weights in rats and mice. Food product labels that say “whole grain” actually are made with whitened flour.


If you are interested in cutting out grains from your diet. Here are some tips. 

Gradually replace grains with high carbohydrate vegetables to maintain body weight and energy.

Breads and muffins, and desserts can be made with soaked raw nut flours, or home-ground tapioca, manioc, arrowroot, casava or coconut flours.

There are cross-reactive substances in “gluten-free” grains which are similar in molecular structure to gluten which can cause the same problems as gluten causes in gluten-sensitive people. For example, gluten-sensitive persons have a higher incidence of rice sensitivity. So problems with gluten means likely problems with rice. If you choose to eat rice (which also contains arsenic) use organic white rice and cook the rice in a pressure cooker.

If you choose to eat oats, use organic steel cut oats. The following is a method to activate the sleeping enzymes in the oats to digest much of the gluten and the stachyose and raffinose (two sugars humans cannot digest): in the evening, bring to a boil 2 cups of water per ½ cup of oats. Add the oats, cover the pan, and take the pan off the stove and leave out overnight (do not refrigerate). The next morning cook to desired consistency.

If you choose to eat grain breads, make your own flour with soaked and sprouted grain or fermented grain to make the flour.

If you choose to use commercial flour, it can be soaked in the amount of liquid called for in the recipe for 12-24 hours before adding the rest of the ingredients and baking. This helps reduce phytates and lectins but does not remove the alloxan or gluten or some of the other problematic grain components.

To soak grains and beans that contain lectins add one of the following to the water:  ½ teaspoon baking soda, or 1 tablespoon vinegar, or 1 tablespoon lemon juice, or 1-inch strip of kombu seaweed.   Change the soak water every 8 hours. Soaking times prior to cooking are: beans at least 24 hours, quinoa at least 1 hour, lentils at least 6 hours, peas at least 18 hours, split peas at least 8 hours, nuts 12-18 hours, flaxseed 2-3 hours, chia seed at least 1 hour.   Soybeans should be fermented (miso, tempeh, natto).

After soaking beans and grains, pressure cooking them inactivates lectins best.

Cookie and energy bars can be made with soaked cooked beans or soaked raw nut flours or root flours such as tapioca (manioc, cassava) or arrowroot.

Many foods have components that are very similar to gluten and can also cause autoimmune diseases. These include rice, coffee, yeast, casein (in milk and milk products like yogurt, cheese and milk chocolate), sesame seeds, quinoa, sorghum, tapioca, amaranth, rice and potato.  So a gluten-sensitive person still having problems after avoiding wheat, could avoid these foods, too, for at least 1-2 months. If that person then feels better, but wants to eat some of those foods,  then one of those foods could be consumed daily for a week or two and see what happens. The same process can be repeated for each of those foods one at a time.


Healthy bacteria for our good health. Raw fermented foods contain good bacteria that digest our food, destroy bad bacteria, decrease LDL cholesterol blood levels, remove toxins we eat or drink and improve body weight control. Some good food sources for probiotics are raw sauerkraut, raw beet kvass, kimchi, kombucha.


Feed our good bacteria so these bacteria can do the following for us: improve digestion in the colon, provide butyrate which nourishes intestinal lining cells, reduce blood sugar, increase cell response to insulin, decrease blood pressure, decrease intestinal reabsorption of bile acids, decrease cholesterol production by the liver, and decrease LDL and total cholesterol; some good prebiotics sources are from roots of plants, beans, many vegetables, fruits and nuts.

Processed grains give quick energy but then we are soon hungry again. Eating plenty of good fats in each meal helps reduce processed food cravings. It takes longer to digest fats so the brain is fed for 3-4 hours (until the next meal). Healthy fats in food include coconut oil, avocado, olives and fresh olive oil, palm oil, egg yolks, and lard. Butter is a fabulous fat if the person is not sensitive to the milk protein called casein. Ghee, or clarified butter, may be okay for these people.


There are lots of good recipes and cook book available, such as, "Eat Beautiful", by Megan S. Stevens and "Internal Bliss – GAPS cookbook" (gapsdiet.com), 2010, International Nutrition, Inc.

Here's to your health!

-Dr. Diane®

Copyright © Dr. Diane Roberts Stoler, March 2018


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