Unhappy woman eating grains and cereals.

Cereals and Grains: The Dirty Secrets

Unhappy woman eating grains and cereals.

The Paleo Diet is different from other nutritional models because it recommends that we avoid all types of cereals and grains, instead of just a selection. Cereals and grains are the same thing, but using both terms can help us conceptualise exactly what we’re talking about when we say “all”. From wheat to millet, barley to corn, from rice to rye, those that contain gluten and the gluten-free, both refined and whole and in any form or derivative: they’re problematic. And not just with regards to our health.

Unfortunately, this category includes the foods most loved by everyone. Bread, pasta, rice, pizza, cookies, cake… they’re all so good, and so when we talk about renouncing them, we’re usually met with resistance. But when you understand their dirty secrets, you’ll be willing to try a grain-free detox. For many who do so, health issues that have been around for decades are resolved in under a month.

Wheat growing in a field.

4 Reasons for Eliminating Cereals and Grains from Your Diet

There are four big reasons for eliminating grains and cereals from your diet:

  1. they cause high insulin production with little or no nutrition
  2. they contain phytates
  3. they contain toxic lectins such as gluten
  4. the gliaden protein found in modern wheat promotes addiction.

All of these factors have detrimental effects.

1. High Insulin, Low or No Nutrition

Firstly, whether whole or refined, cereals and grains are a cheap form of fuel that are empty or low in nutrition and pack a lot of calories into a relatively small space. They’re quickly broken down into simple sugars (glucose) through the digestive process. The sugars enter the bloodstream in a rush, raise blood sugar levels beyond the ‘safe’ zone, cause the release of insulin and set off the devasting chain reaction of the Carb Cycle: carbohydrate cravings, excess insulin production, weight gain, the literal impossibility of burning stored fat and Chronic Systemic Inflammation with all it’s complications including the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease and athereosclerosis.

Hands in dough.

2. Phytates

Secondly, all cereals and grains contain phytates. Phytates are anti-nutrients. Yep, that’s right, anti-nutrients. Nutrients provide the body with all that it needs to thrive. Anti-nutrients do the opposite: they bind to and block the absorbtion of minerals such as calcium, iron, zinc and magnesium and vitamins including A, C and B12. They also interfere with the synthesis of vitamin D3. The perceived nurtrient value of grains is therefore compromised because the few nutrients that they do contain aren’t bioavailable. Phytates are particularly abundant in the bran section of the seed, meaning that whole grains are worse than refined grains.

3. Lectins

Thirdly, cereals and grains contain toxic lectins. Lectins are natural plant toxins. They’re the evolutionary defense system of seeds. All cereals and grains are seeds, and the role of seeds, like every other living creature, is to survive predators and environmental challenges long enough to reproduce the species. Along with situations such as heat, damp, mould and bacteria, seeds need to survive the digestive systems of the animals which consume them. This includes humans. Humans have been ingesting lectins for a very short time on the evolutionary timeline and don’t have the enzymes which are capable of breaking them down into their individual amino acids. (Only birds have been eating seeds long enough to successfully digest them.) 

Lectins damage the lining of the small intestine, causing inflammation. Continual irritation and inflammation leads to Leaky Gut. When foreign protein particles enter the bloodstream through the damaged gut lining, the immune system responds with more inflammation and produces antibodies to fight the invaders.

Lectins can be so similar to the proteins found naturally in the cells of the body that the immune system can become confused through a phenomenon known as Molecular Mimicry. If it gets to the point whereby the immune cells can’t distinguish between the foreign proteins and those of our own body, it may start to produce auto-antibodies which target our healthy cells. If this happens, then we’ve sown the seeds (excuse the pun) for developing an autoimmune disease.

Agro-industry tractors harvesting wheat.

Signs and Symptoms of Lectin Sensitivity

All humans are intolerant to the lectins in cereals and grains. We simply haven’t evolved to digest them. Lectin Sensitivity manifests as a mild inflammatory state. Reactions can occur in any system of the body that the lectin proteins happen to invade.

Symptoms include (but are not limited to):

  • digestive issues that are so common we think they’re normal such as diarrhea, gas, bloating and acid reflux
  • allergies such as sneezing and excess mucus production
  • skin issues such as acne and blemishes
  • headaches and migraines
  • joint pain
  • reproductive issues
  • mental health issues.

There are two types of lectins which all humans have trouble digesting: prolamins and agglutinins.

  • Agglutinins are sticky. Foreign particles can stick to them, catching an easy ride through the damaged junctures of a Leaky Gut.
  • Prolamins are very difficult to digest and damage the lining of the intestine.

Gluten is the most famous of the prolamins because of the severe autoimmune reaction experienced by sufferers of Celiac Disease. Other prolamins include avenin (oats), zein (corn) and orzenin (rice). Anti-gliadin IgA is the antibody produced in the gut in anticipation of an impending gluten threat. Interestingly , one study found IgA was present in nearly 30% of subjects who otherwise demonstrated no evidence of gluten sensitivity.

  • Celiac Disease is a genetic autoimmune disease whereby the reaction of the immune system to any amount of gluten damages the enterocyte cells which line the small intestine. 
  • Gluten Sensitivity or Intollerance is neither an autoimmune disease nor does it damage the enterocyte cells, but it does provoke the immune system and results in gastrointestinal distress.
  • Lectin Sensitivity, as mentioned above, also exists but is not well known.
Woman in bath eating noodles.

4. Gliadin, The Addictive Protein in Wheat

The fourth reason to eliminate cereals and grains from the diet – and wheat in particular – is that gliadin is addictive. Gliadin is a protein found in the dwarf wheat which is grown today. It converts to opiod polypeptides that bind to the opiod receptors in the brain. The stimulation creates dependency and results in a profound stimulation of appetite which can encite people to consume up to 400 extra calories per day! Food manufacturers began adding gliadin-heavy wheat to processed foods around 25 years ago… which correlates precisely with the rise of obesity and type 2 diabetes.

A combination of gliadin, carbohydrates and sugar (as found in bread and baked goods) is a recipe for addiction. This is perfect for the food industry. But not for our health.

A Cereal and Grain Free Detox May Change Your Life

If much of your diet is currently based on cereals and grains (ours was!) then I know it can be difficult to contemplate life without them. But I can assure you, it’s worth it. The changes to your health may be astounding. For Fiorenzo, it was life changing. Within 12 days he renounced the pharmaceutical inhibitor for acid reflux that he’d been taking for 4 and a half years, for a problem that had haunted him since infancy. What we discovered, but which no medical specialist was able to, was that he suffers from lectin sensitivity.

For my part, my energy returned instantly, my digestive issues resolved and my inflammation levels gradually reduced, much in part, I believe, to the radical healing of a damaged gut. Read our full story, From Physical Meltdown to Inflammation Free.

If you’re ready to give this a shot, contact me about doing my 5-star program, the Paleo Reset 31. No one regrets it!

Health, Freedom, Life. Download Now your Guide to the Paleo Reset 31, and learn that “Health is Easy”

Read More

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Healthy Brain, Smart Brain: Level Up Your Intelligence – Paleo is more than just food. Being smart counts!

Culture, Nature, Spirit, Self: The Layers of Human Relationship – Aspects of this post may surprise you.


Woman eating cereal Photo by Tamas Pap on Unsplash| Wheat Photo by Aarón Blanco Tejedor on Unsplash | Hands in dough Photo by Ivan Rohovchenko on Unsplash | Tractors harvesting Photo by Dan Loran on Unsplash | Woman in bath eating noodles Photo by Artem Labunsky on Unsplash


Angelina Brazzale

Angelina Brazzale is the founding creative director of Empress and Sister. Like her chart ruler, Mercury, she travels between worlds. She has degrees in English Literature and in Fine Arts, Ceramics. She's a Primary Health Coach, having reversed autoimmune disease through the protocols of ancestral health. She spent over 10 years teaching yoga and meditation. She reads Tarot, writes and makes art, and is sensitive to the energy in crystals and trees. Visit her Page in the Empress and Sister Collective for information, products and services.

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