A few years ago, I got curious about Celiac disease, which you probably know is caused by an adverse reaction to gluten. I don’t have Celiac disease. I’m just fascinated by food allergies or auto-immune responses to food because, from an evolutionary perspective, a species that becomes incapable of digesting its food is going to die out.
I’m sure that a critical mass of sufferers must be reached before it becomes a problem for the species. I have no idea what that number would be for humanity, but consider: you probably know at least one person who has Celiac disease, and you probably know several people who are allergic to at least one kind of food. A hundred years ago, I bet you could go your whole life and never know anyone who had a problem.
I’m a big believer in evolution. I think that creatures evolve in an environment that works for them. If something in the environment is deadly to a species, that species will not evolve successfully in that environment. The species will either adapt (mutate) by coming up with a way to live with the deadly toxin, or the species will die out. Even in the first case, an awful lot of individual members of the species will die, because the adaptation takes a long time.
Since humans have pretty much taken over the globe, it’s obvious we’ve been successful as a species. As hunter-gatherers, we ate a hugely varied diet, depending on our location, yet we thrived in all of them. When we started farming, our diet became a little more restrictive, and many new illnesses cropped up, requiring some adaptation. We still thrived, helped along by the specialization that accompanied staying in one place.
But in the last two hundred years or so, and especially the last hundred, our diet has become highly restrictive. As hunter-gatherers, we ate from thousands of food sources. As farmers, this dropped to a few hundred, at most. Recently, our food sources can be counted in the double digits.
This, I think, is the biggest reason for the rise in auto-immune disorders, such as allergies and Celiac disease. If you get all your food from a typical grocery store or a typical restaurant, you are eating less than twenty varieties of food. Maybe less than ten. This is because nearly everything on the grocery store shelf is made from corn, wheat, or soy. I don’t care what it looks like, tastes like, or what the name one the box is, one of those is probably the main ingredient.
This is making us sick. If you consider that we’ve been eating this way for several generations now (say at least three or four, for the average American), it’s really no surprise that so many people are allergic to something. We evolved eating a wide variety of food, and that’s what our bodies require. When we spend a few generation eating only ten or twenty foods on a regular basis, our bodies cannot function adequately.
This could be the beginning of adaptation. The environment has changed, so we, as a species, need to adapt. But it’s not a quick, easy process. Sure, we have our technical know-how to help us through it, but it’s still going to be messy, painful, and for very many individuals, deadly.
Another reason (but a related one) more allergies are popping up is because we don’t breastfeed our babies enough. The hunterer-gatherers started life eating only breast milk for the first four or five years, adding food as their teeth grew, and the digestion system matured. Keep in mind that the mothers ate the normal varied diet, so the breast milk had all these elements incorporated into it. The baby got nutrients in a form digestible to it, along with the enzymes or bacteria needed to aid digestion.
Now our babies are fed artificial formulas using milk from non-human animals or from plants. In addition, they are fed cereal grains at much too young an age. These foods do not provide the necessary enzymes or bacteria for proper digestion. This directly leads to food allergies, for the simple reason that babies guts are not mature enough to handle the ingredients. After a few generations of this, it’s no wonder auto-immune problems are cropping up.
Well gee, I titled this post “Flour mix” and still haven’t said anything about it. Sorry about that. The flour mix I’m talking about is one I made up in an effort to reduce the amount of gluten in our diet. In retrospect, since we don’t buy processed food, we probably don’t need to worry about the gluten we eat. But the flour mix makes great tasting pancakes and waffles, so we keep using it. Here’s the recipe – and yes, all ingredients are organic and whole-grained:
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 cups oat flour
2 cups brown rice flour
1 cup buckwheat flour
1/2 cup amaranth flour
2 cups flaxseed meal
I combine all this and store in an airtight container. We use it up in about six weeks or so, so I don’t bother to refrigerate it. I grind the amaranth and flaxseeds as I need them. I do keep the unground flaxseeds in the freezer. The pancakes and waffles are so good, I don’t even need to put syrup on them. They have a sweet, nutty, and complex flavor. Really good!