An Italian group just published the below study comparing ancient wheat, kamut, to modern wheat in people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
J Nutr. 2014 Feb 13:1-8.
Effect of Triticum turgidum subsp. turanicum wheat on irritable bowel syndrome: a double-blinded randomised dietary intervention trial.
Sofi F1, Whittaker A2, Gori AM3 et al.
The aim of the present study was to examine the effect of a replacement diet with organic, semi-whole-grain products derived from Triticum turgidum subsp. turanicum (ancient) wheat on irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms and inflammatory/biochemical parameters. A double-blinded randomised cross-over trial was performed using twenty participants (thirteen females and seven males, aged 18-59 years) classified as having moderate IBS. Participants received products (bread, pasta, biscuits and crackers) made either from ancient or modern wheat for 6 weeks in a random order. Symptoms due to IBS were evaluated using two questionnaires, which were compiled both at baseline and on a weekly basis during the intervention period. Blood analyses were carried out at the beginning and end of each respective intervention period. During the intervention period with ancient wheat products, patients experienced a significant decrease in the severity of IBS symptoms, such as abdominal pain (P< 0·0001), bloating (P= 0·004), satisfaction with stool consistency (P< 0·001) and tiredness (P< 0·0001). No significant difference was observed after the intervention period with modern wheat products. Similarly, patients reported significant amelioration in the severity of gastrointestinal symptoms only after the ancient wheat intervention period, as measured by the intensity of pain (P= 0·001), the frequency of pain (P< 0·0001), bloating (P< 0·0001), abdominal distension (P< 0·001) and the quality of life (P< 0·0001). Interestingly, the inflammatory profile showed a significant reduction in the circulating levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines, including IL-6, IL-17, interferon-γ, monocyte chemotactic protein-1 and vascular endothelial growth factor after the intervention period with ancient wheat products, but not after the control period. In conclusion, significant improvements in both IBS symptoms and the inflammatory profile were reported after the ingestion of ancient wheat products.
It’s a modest experience, but a persuasive one. IBS has become nearly synonymous with “non-celiac gluten intolerance” (NCGI), i.e., celiac disease-like symptoms but without the accompanying small intestinal destructive changes. (In a recent consensus document, for instance, it was suggested that IBS and NCGI were one and the same.) But, as the assessment of inflammatory markers in this study and others suggest, it does not mean that IBS/NCGI are benign nor does it mean that they are a matter of mind over matter–they are very real and have very real health implications, not to mention putting yourself at risk for endoscopy by a revenue-hungry gastroenterologist.
We know that the gliadin proteins, glutenins, wheat germ agglutinin, trypsin inhibitors, alpha amylase inhibitors, and gibberellin genes are different in modern semi-dwarf strains of wheat compared to kamut and other ancient strains of wheat. Does this mean that, because kamut, emmer, einkorn, and spelt–all ancient traditional strains of wheat–are less harmful, they are therefore harmless? No, it does not, any more than low-tar cigarettes are healthy because they have less tar.
When humans consumed such ancient strains of wheat, tooth decay exploded, crowded teeth and changes in childhood facial structure appeared, and iron deficiency developed (“porotic hyperostosis”). A vivid and brilliant illustration of what happens to non-grain consuming humans when they begin to consume grains (and sugar) of the early 20th century was provided by Dr. Weston Price in his book, Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, a compilation of observations and photographs made 80 years ago by studying cultures who first began consuming the food of “the white man.”
Grains, i.e., the seeds of grasses were never meant for human consumption, part of the human diet for less than 1/2 of 1% of our time on earth. There is unquestionably a range of adverse effects, from poisonous to chronic low-grade toxicity. The worst: modern semi-dwarf wheat; the least: rice and millet. Traditional and ancient strains of wheat are somewhere in between.