Gluten intolerance is a major public health problem. In Europe, almost one in 100 people have developed coeliac disease, a major gluten intolerance. Moderate intolerances affect about one in three people .
To suppress symptoms, avoidance of wheat and gluten-containing foods is a must. Rice often becomes the king of foods to replace these unwanted foods.
But is rice really safe? Is eating lots of rice to replace gluten a guarantee of good health?
A widespread problematic intolerance
In Western countries, wheat is the cereal most frequently involved in food allergies and intolerances. It is easy to believe that wheat is an extremely unhealthy food. This is often stated with phrases such as: “Wheat is dangerous for your health”, “Gluten destroys the intestine” or “Modern wheat has become indigestible for humans”. Rice is then presented as the best cereal alternative to wheat. It is sometimes even put on a pedestal as a life-saving food.
Rice is said to be one of the best tolerated cereals. When people who are sensitive to gluten replace wheat with rice, they generally experience an improvement in their health. However, rice is associated with many discomforts.
In Asia, rice intolerance is predominant . It is widespread in Asia, with an incidence similar to gluten intolerance in Europe. The symptoms are also quite similar, with intestinal disorders, asthma, common problems [3-13].
With the increase in rice consumption, rice intolerance is becoming increasingly common in the West. Rice is not as harmless to our health as we are led to believe. Rice intolerance is just as problematic as gluten intolerance.
Why does rice cause such effects?
Rice is still a cereal and humans are not specifically adapted to eating it in quantity. Replacing wheat with rice gives the body some relief, but it only shifts the problem.
Wheat and gluten are regularly blamed because antibodies against fragments of gluten are produced by the body’s defence system. In Asia, rice causes intolerance problems for the same reason. Problems of intolerance to wheat or rice proteins occur because these foods are not digested properly. The quantities consumed are too large or the meals containing them are too difficult to digest.
The real cause of intolerance is not a food or a molecule. It is much deeper and comes from the way we eat.
A food fashion problem
All cereals have the particularity of containing molecules from the same family: prolamine. In the case of wheat, this is gluten and in the case of rice, it is orzenin. Dr Jean Seignalet has proposed an interesting theory on the genetic selection of grains, leading to genetic mutations. Our body would not recognise the new proteins that result from these mutations. Although this theory goes in the direction of human maladjustment to certain grains and, above all, to the modern way of eating, I do not entirely agree with it.
Humans are not specifically adapted to eat cereals. These foods have been present in the human diet for just over 15,000 years. Their regular consumption is much more recent in many parts of the world. Human genetics have not had time to adapt to be able to digest cereals efficiently.
Reducing the risk of grain intolerance
You have an intolerance, even a moderate one, and you are wary of gluten? Do you protect yourself from a substance that your body can no longer tolerate? This is a good thing, but the ground for intolerance is already there. The aim is not to avoid all traces of gluten. It is to prevent the development of other intolerances.
A few simple tips can reduce the risk of food intolerance:
- Limit industrial preparations : Whether made from wheat, rice or other cereals, processed foods are very difficult to digest.
- Make meals easier to digest : In order to cope better with cereals, digestion should be the main concern. It is best to serve cereals only with vegetables. Too many food mixtures impair the quality of digestion.
- Reduce the frequency of consumption : Cereals should not be eaten at every meal, as they can exceed our digestive capacity and damage the intestine.
- Chewing : This is the first stage of digestion for cereals. Stress and haste too often lead us to neglect this stage. Yet it is essential or considerably relieves the digestive workload for the other organs.
Let’s change the way we look at food. The choice of food is important, but good digestion is even more important. This is what most often prevents problems of intolerance.
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