My Earth, My Religion

My Earth, My Religion

Author: Chrysalys  

Though I still consider myself a novice, the Mother Earth has been the focal point of my spiritual and religious views since I can remember. I was raised in a small coal-mining town in rural southern WV where evidence of repeated acts of maliciousness were evident all around. Mining companies would take a beautiful mountainside and strip it of all the covering. The trees would be trucked away to sawmills to build more scabs upon her green skin. The rocks and soil were mutilated into mush that could easily be swept away from the scene. Great gaping holes lay uncovered in the forest splendor for all to see. Some of the wounds are still there thirty-five years later. Ponds filled with sludge from the mines dotted the landscape and in heavy rains would overflow or burst, killing not only the surrounding landscape but many human beings and animals as well. Seeing these things as a young child made a part of me dislike – even hate – progress and those who brought it. But life was only just beginning; there was much more treachery to see.

Eventually, government stepped in and required large mining companies to “make it pretty” once again. However, the once majestic views of the mountain ranges near my home were now spattered with the ever-growing menace that was society. Slowly I watched her elegant hardwoods and gracefully sloping mountains scab over with our culture’s ideas of progress. The effect was disheartening for a teenage girl seeking answers about the stirrings within. It would take 20 years to heal those scars on my soul.

I moved from my small town of less than 500 people to the large, booming metropolis of Baltimore at the age of 16. Alone and thinking that I knew everything there was to know, I started upon my search for who I really was and what life was all about. All that concrete was hard to take. The sky would look like rain for days or weeks before it would rain. The stars were hidden behind a canopy of smog and debris from the city. I was miserable here, but kept on looking for what it was that called to me. Every chance I got I went into the countryside near Baltimore. Every week there was less and less of that to go to. I felt trapped inside a concrete tomb, smothering from the lack of my beautiful sky.

I moved again, to the more suburban part of the county and then again to another county. Each move took me to “greener pastures” only to find those pastures consumed once again by progress. I became frantic at times wandering just how far humanity would take this. More and more houses. More and more cars. More and more concrete. The rainwater had nowhere to go. Streets flooded; homes were destroyed. Soon my little country town had become the city I had run from. So, I moved again…

This time we moved far out into the country (we thought) to the Eastern Panhandle of WV – the opposite end of the state where I grew up. It was lovely! Green fields with cattle, horses, gardens… These kind folks loved their countryside too and vowed to fight for it. And they have, but to no avail. The residents voted against changing the county regulations that would change zoning and make things easier for land developers from the big cities to come in and make paradise a parking lot. But the county government did it anyway. Soon, where once a 3,000-acre cattle farm, which spanned over 250 years, will be a series of housing developments, strip malls and concrete. My heart cries for her once again. How can we keep what is rightfully ours when our government doesn’t listen to the voices of it’s people? It is indeed a sad day for us all.

I try to allow for the majority who are ignorant of what they do; most are just mimicking what they have seen or heard. I suppose the most upsetting thing is having someone you know desecrate her by polluting the water, the land or the air. I have lost many who called themselves friends by standing my ground in her defense. I suppose I shall lose more before my time here is done.

As time has passed, I have come to terms (to a degree) with humanity’s progress in the world. Petitioning for understanding is a daily task for it is difficult for this 40-ish Pagan to digest. Even picking a flower or pruning a tree is a religious task for I do not want to harm any of the creatures that dwell here. The utmost care is taken in the garden, the yard, the roads… they are my temple. I feel most at home in a field or forest rather than inside a building. When I see someone littering or perhaps come upon a space that has been strewn with debris I pray that the ones who do these things will come to know the pain and disgrace that they have caused in hopes that someday these things will no longer come to pass. I often wander if perhaps some of my own misfortune is not but the law of three returning to me what I have sent. No intention of harm is sent, only the love that I have for the Mother. But I will not stop petitioning. Better that I suffer a little misfortune now and again than to have my temple destroyed.

But who am I to point a finger? I am but one of her many children who mourn all the atrocities which befall her each and every day. If there were to be only one day in which all of the bad things would stop, only one day in which no business, person, company or corporation, no government, no country could do anything to hurt my beautiful, precious Mother Earth, what would become of progress? Would the world as we know it end? Sounds like paradise to me.

Bubble, Bubble, toil and trouble… .

Blessings & Peace,

Teresa Dawn
Bluerainlady

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Ouija Boards

Ouija Boards

Definition: Supposedly the name “Ouija Board” is derived from the French and German words for “yes” (oui and ja). The device is used to supposedly contact immaterial  spirits who control the hands of the human participants for the purpose of answering  questions. These questions can involve the nature of the afterlife, events which  occurred while these spirits still existed in the physical realm, or events which will  occur in the future (divination). The Ouija Board has often been used by both kids  and adults as basically a game, but it has also been used by people who are “true  believers” in the presence and power of spirits.

A Ouija Board is a simple device, consisting of a flat board covered with all the letters of the alphabet, numbers, and four words written large: Yes, No, Maybe and Goodbye. In addition it comes with a triangular object, a bit larger than a fist, resting on three short legs. This is called a planchette, and one corner is used as a pointer.

The original version of such boards consisted just of the planchette and paper – a pencil was put through a hole in the planchette and the “spirits” were supposed to transmit their messages in this fashion. This design was changed in the late 19th century by Isaac Fuld, a Baltimore toymaker who added the board with letters and numbers, thus simplifying the transmission of messages. Sales were tremendous, especially after World War I when millions of people were mourning the loss of loved ones and were anxious to get some sign, any sign, that they might still “exist” in some fashion. 

For tax reasons, Fuld insisted that his Ouija board was not a game but rather a  scientific instrument. The government attempted to impose a tax upon his sales like they  did with other games, something he fought all of the way to the Supreme Court. He lost.

Today, all rights and trademarks are owned by Parker Brothers because Fuld’s children sold the business in 1966. Although they no longer manufacture it, anything which was not made by them is not an authentic Fuld board. As it currently stands, it is operated by having one or more people sit at the board with one or more hands on the planchette and they ask questions of spirits. The planchette is then supposed to move about the board, pointing to the answers – numbers, words, or letters which spell out more specific information. 

In practice, the answers are produced by the ideomotor effect, not spirits. That this  is the real cause was recognized even early on – the original patent for the Ouija  Board included the statement that “A question is asked and by involuntary  muscular actions of the players, or through some other agency, the frame will  commence to move across the table.” 

It is also interesting that if opaque paper is placed over the board, hiding the letters and numbers from the people who are using it, the “spirits” are no longer able communicate. Are we really supposed to believe that these spirits are unable to see through plain paper?

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I Married a Iwa: The Sacrad Nuptials of Haitian Vodou

I Married a Iwa: The Sacrad Nuptials of Haitian Vodou

by Kevin Filan

All is on earth. Nothing is in the sky. Nothing was made in the sky. No one needs to speak to the sky. Instead of talking about the sky, talk instead of the earth. André Pierre[1]

In most religions, devotees talk to the divine; in Vodou the divine talks to its devotees. Vodou is a very concrete school of mysticism. The lwa (spirits served in Vodou) are not part of some ineffable astral choir detached from reality; to their followers, they are as real as the local greengrocer or the noisy neighbor who lives down the hall. Vodouisants (devotees of Vodou, also known as serviteurs) come to their spirits with worldly concerns — difficulties in romance, financial needs, health problems — and ask for their intervention. In return, they provide the lwa with food, housing, gifts and, via the mechanism of possession, their own bodies. Many Vodouisants will show their love for the spirit in a time-honored fashion: by taking wedding vows in the ceremony of the maryaj lwa.

To understand Haitian Vodou, one must understand Haiti, and to understand Haiti, one must understand Haitian history. If Vodou is a mirror of Haitian culture, Haitian culture is a mirror of colonial St. Dominique. A study of the maryaj lwa — and of marriage in Haitian culture — can help to illuminate many of the ways in which a century of slavery, followed by two centuries of poverty and oppression, has shaped every aspect of Haitian life.

Bay kou bliye pote mak sonje (He who strikes the blow forgets; he who bears the bruises remembers.) Haitian Proverb

Among the various African tribes whose members came in chains to the New World, there were many different conjugal relationships. Some tribes were polygamous, while others were monogamous. Brideswealth marriages, cross-cousin marriages, slave marriages, secondary marriages and ritual marriages could all be found in Central and West Africa. Few of these customs had meaning in the harsh conditions of St. Dominique. Family relationships were regularly torn apart at auctions, while plantation owners who wanted to sleep with an attractive slave woman rarely considered their own marital vows, never mind those of their “property.” Slave owners forbade anything that smacked of African “heathenism” and “voodooism,” and brutally punished any slaves who were caught preserving their native traditions. Nor would the customs of any one tribe necessarily be reflected in the customs of another. To minimize the risk of organized uprisings, it was common practice to keep slaves from different groups together on a plantation; Africans separated by language and by ethnic identity were considered less likely to band together than Africans from the same region or tribe.

Flung together in this hellhole, the slaves were forced to recreate their ancestral religious traditions with whatever was at hand. A ceremonial reglamen developed to honor each of the ancestral nachons (nations or tribes) in order. Roman Catholicism, the religion of the French colonial masters, would also come to play an especially important role in Vodou.[2] Africans had never been afraid to incorporate the deities of neighboring tribes. Obviously the French gods were powerful: They kept their White followers in wealth and gave them mastery over the black slaves. And so the slaves appropriated many of the symbols and practices of Catholicism into their own religious melange, including the sacrament of marriage.

Even after a bloody decade-long revolution, and the 1804 establishment of the Free Black Republic of Haiti, the influence of Catholicism and European culture did not fade away. The ruling blans (whites) were largely replaced by gens du coleur, free blacks and mullatos who were known for being “more French than the French.” They identified African culture with ignorance and inferiority: Indeed, many gens du coleur had themselves been slaveholders before the Revolution. Free Haitian society quickly became stratified between a dark-skinned poor majority and a light-skinned wealthy minority ruling class, a situation that has persisted to this day. European customs and religious practices were identified with wealth and prestige– and, inevitably, power.

The sacred obligations of marriage are but Iittle regarded in [Haiti]; the two sexes live in a state of concubinage; and, according to M. de la Croix, many irregular unions have taken place. Niles’ Weekly Register, Baltimore, Nov. 25, 1820.

For most Haitians, a civil or religious marriage is a luxury. The most common relationship among peasants and the urban lower class is plasaj or common-law marriage. Haitians typically refer to any woman who lives with a man, keeps house for him and bears his children as a “wife.” The husband and wife often make explicit agreements about their economic relationship at the beginning of a plasaj. These agreements typically require the husband to cultivate at least one plot of land for the wife and to provide her with a house. Women perform most household tasks, though men often do heavy chores like gathering firewood. These unions are distinguished from vivavek or tizammi relationships, sexual affairs that carry less responsibility and are less stable than a plasaj.[3]

Among the Haitian elite, civil and religious marriages were the norm; the “best” families could trace legally married ancestors to the nineteenth century. Legal marriages were seen as more prestigious than plasaj, but they were not necessarily more stable or productive, nor were they necessarily monogamous. In fact, legally married men are often more economically stable than men in plasaj relationships, and so it is easier for them to separate from their wives or to enter into extramarital relationships. While Haitian women are expected to maintain sexual fidelity to their husbands, whether or not they are legally married or in a plasaj relationship, Haitian men are more free to pursue polygamous relationships. Polygamy among Haitian men is not so much a sign of virility as of social and economic success: few Haitian men can afford to keep more than one family.

Danto, she says to me “You have a choice: Be with me, mon amour or I’m not responsible for what will happen to you.” I could die, you know, anything could happen. Georges René, husband of Ezili Danto[4]

When the lwa possess bystanders at a ceremony, they will frequently offer advice and blessings — and make demands in return. Often their demands will include a request for marriage. The coquettish Erzulie Freda, lwa of love, beauty and luxury, often proposes to several men when she arrives at a ceremony, while the rum-swilling warrior lwa Ogou is known for his love of the ladies and often asks for their hands in marriage when he comes. Frequently these proposals are met with reluctance. A maryaj lwa is at least as expensive as a civil or religious marriage, and may cost several years in savings. In lieu of a marriage, a Vodouisant might offer to buy the proposing lwa a gift or to make some sacrifice that is less costly and onerous. Sometimes the lwa will be satisfied with these counteroffers; as spirits residing in an impoverished land, they have long since learned to accept what is available to them. At other times they will insist on the maryaj. Vodouisants who continue to ignore these demands will often discover their luck turning for the worse, as the spurned lwa brings them misfortune and sickness. Sometimes the lwa will even punish the Vodouisant’s partner, making him or her ill until such time as the marriage demands are met.

When the Vodouisant decides (or is persuaded) to marry the lwa, a ceremony is held. The space is prepared by the Priye Gineh, a lengthy ceremonial salute in which the lwa are honored alongside God, Jesus, the Virgin and various saints. A table is set up for the spirits who are going to be married. Cakes are prepared in their favorite colors (pink for Freda, red and blue for Danto, etc.). Their favorite offerings are placed on the table, alongside offerings for other lwa who might show up at the ceremony to give their blessings. The ceremonial clothing or objects of the brides or grooms will be close at hand. The human bride or groom, meanwhile, will be dressed in his or her finest clothing, as befits such a solemn ceremony.

After the Priye, the houngan or mambo (Priest or Priestess) in charge will begin calling the various lwa. Starting with Papa Legba, the gatekeeper who “opens the door” for the other lwa, s/he will salute the spirits in the order of the reglaman. At the appropriate time, the bride/groom spirits will possess one of the participants. That chwal (“horse”) will be dressed in the clothing of the lwa — a straw hat and bag for agricultural lwa Zaka, a denim dress for Ezili Danto, etc. Then s/he will be seated before the table beside the serviteur s/he is marrying. A pret savanne (literally “bush priest”) will recite the Catholic marriage ceremony; the lwa and the serviteur pledge fidelity to each other. The serviteur’s rings are “passed through fire” — incense smoke, really — and then the lwa places the ring on the serviteur’s finger.

This ritual is repeated for each lwa whom the serviteur is going to marry. Only rarely does one marry a single lwa: usually it is necessary to marry two or three so that their energies will be balanced. A woman who marries Ogou will also marry Damballah, the Great White Serpent, and Zaka: It is believed that Damballah will “cool” Ogou’s hot, intense energy while Zaka will help to “ground” it. And any man who marries Freda must marry her hardworking peasant sister Ezili Danto, and vice versa: the acrimony between these two women is legendary in Vodou and it is believed that marrying only one will cause the other to become enraged with jealousy. (Polygamy is also the rule among the lwa themselves: Erzulie Freda is “wife” to Damballah, Ogou and the sea king Met Agwe, while even Ogou has to wear the rings of both Freda and Ezili Danto.)

The serviteur is now married to the lwa. S/he will be expected to set aside at least one night per month — and perhaps as many as three nights a week — during which s/he will not have sexual relations with anyone else. During that time many spouses of the lwa will sleep alone in a bed that they have specially prepared for the occasion. They may wrap their heads with a cloth in their spouse’s color, and will almost certainly wear their wedding rings. On that evening they are frequently visited by their husbands/wives in dreams that may have sexual content or which may involve more platonic counsel and advice.

While most wealthy planters in St. Dominique were having sexual relations with one or more of their slaves, few would admit to this publicly. They might grant favored status to those women and their offspring, but always in private. The whole process became an open secret, one of those things that everyone knew but no one discussed. Among Haiti’s wealthy, the same could be said of Vodou. Rather than holding public fetes in their homes, or attending ceremonies, wealthy Haitians might honor the lwa privately through a maryaj lwa performed in their homes. This allows them to serve the lwa discreetly. By setting aside days for the lwa and maintaining an inconspicuous shrine, they can gain the spirit’s continued protection and blessings without incurring the social stigma that open service to the lwa would bring. If poor Haitians marry the lwa, rich Haitians take them as concubines.

Entering the Vodou is like choosing a whole new family. Choosing a family is rightfully a serious undertaking. Houngan Aboudja[5]

The maryaj lwa ceremony is not only costly; it also involves considerable responsibility. Violating your wedding vows is seen as extremely dangerous. Edeline St.-Amand, a Haitian Mambo living in Brooklyn, tells the story of a man who married Erzulie Freda, then had relations with another woman on the day set aside for Freda. “He says his nature is gone,” Mambo Edeline explains. “I try to call Freda for him so he can say he’s sorry. For three hours I try to call Freda, but Freda won’t come. Finally I call Brav (Brav Ghede, a dead spirit with whom Edeline works frequently). Brav come and he say `Freda don’t want to talk to you.’ He beg Brav, tell her I’m sorry, tell her I’m sorry. Finally Brav tells him, `Okay. Freda say you got to go to Mass every day for 21 days, then you need to throw a big party for Freda. Then maybe she think about forgiving you.”[6]

Whether rich or poor, Vodouisants see the maryaj lwa as both a sign of devotion and a guarantee of success. The Vodouisant throws a party for the lwa and sets aside special days for the spirit’s honor. In exchange, s/he expects the lwa to provide support and protection. The maryaj lwa, like marriage and conjugal relationships, is as much a promise of mutual support as a sign of undying love. Kathleen Latzoni, an American woman who recently married Ogou, Damballah and Zaka, says that her maryaj had a pronounced positive effect on her life. “I’ve become much more productive at work; and while I still have a demanding job, I feel that things around the office have started to run more smoothly. I also feel less anxious and better able to cope with whatever life throws my way — no matter what happens, I’ve got somebody (or three somebodies!) on my side.” For Latzoni, the Maryaj also served as a community-building experience. “Even though my cultural background is very different from most of the Vodouisants I know in Brooklyn, I feel more bonded to them now, as if this shared experience gives us something in common.”[7]

 


[1]Sacred Arts of Haitian Vodou, Donald J. Cosentino, Editor. Los Angeles: UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History, 1995. p. xxiii.

[2]For an excellent and extensive study of the interplay between African religions and Catholicism in Haiti, see Leslie G. Desmangles, Faces of the Gods: Voodoo and Roman Catholicism in Haiti. (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1993).

[3]Haitian Women’s Role in Sexual Decision-Making: The Gap Between AIDS Knowledge and Behavior Change (II. Presentation of Findings),  available at http://www.fhi.org/en/RH/Pubs/booksReports/haitiwom/haitpres.htm

[4]Cosentino, p. 292.

[5]From a post entitled “Living in the Spirit,” to the mailing list “VodouSpirit,” http://groups.yahoo.com/group/vodouspirit/, December 11, 2002.

[6]Conversation with Mambo Edeline St.-Amand, February 2003.

[7] Conversation with Kathleen Latzoni, October 2003.

August 2 – Daily Feast

August 2 – Daily Feast

It is not easy to forget the hours we spent as children along some sparkling stream – and there were more sparkling streams then. It is not hard to remember every sound that carried up the creek, how the fishing was, and how it tasted fresh from the water and cooked in an old tin skillet over an open fire. There were a nv s tsigi, violet flowers, blooming in clusters along the banks – and poison ivy we had to avoid – and didn’t always. A cardinal sang a fishing song and the sound of oars dipped in warm water with a soft splish-splash. Bugs, like people on water-skis, slipped over the surface of water. And as we passed, tsisdvna, crawfish backed into holes in the mud. Every moment was a thing of joy and knocks softly on our minds today when the need for solitude is there.

~ What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night….the breath of a buffalo in the winter time….a little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset. ~

CROWFOOT, 1821

‘A Cherokee Feast of Days’, by Joyce Sequichie Hifler

7 Negative Effects of Refined Flour

7 Negative Effects of Refined Flour

by Molly, selected from Experience Life

Flour is hard to sidestep come mealtime. Breakfast brims with  toast, bagels,  cereal, pancakes. Lunch is built around sandwiches,  wraps, pasta, pizza. And  dinner may come with its very own breadbasket.

Flours are produced by crushing grains into fine powders. And those  powders  form the basis not just for breads and buns, but for a huge  variety of  processed foods, from cereals, crackers and pizza dough to  cookies, cakes and  ice cream cones. As a result, the average American  now eats 10 servings of  refined grains each day.

As our national appetite for flour has inched up, so has the  incidence of  diet-related ills, such as obesity, heart disease and  diabetes. Coincidence?  Many nutrition experts don’t think so. When they  weigh the evidence linking  food choices and disease, they see the white,  dusty fingerprints of flour  everywhere.

“Now that trans fats are largely out of the food supply,” says David  Ludwig,  MD, PhD, director of the New Balance Foundation Obesity  Prevention Center at  Children’s Hospital Boston, “refined carbohydrates, including refined grain products, are  the single most harmful influence in the American diet today.”

Flour started out as an ingenious fix to a vexing problem. Grass  seeds were  plentiful, but the tough outer shell (the husk) made the  seeds difficult to  chew and digest. Early humans outsmarted the seeds by  grinding them between  stones, crushing the outer layers to get at the  goodness inside. The result — a  coarse powder — was the first  whole-grain flour.

The downside was spoilage. Crushing the germ released its oils, which   quickly turned rancid when exposed to air. With the advent of  industrial  milling in the late 1800s, machines began filtering out the  germ and pulverized  the remaining endosperm into a fine, white powder  that lasted on the shelf for  months. And so all-purpose white flour was  born — along with a host of health  problems.

Beneath their rigid architecture, whole-kernel grains conceal an  array of  vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and fiber. But when machines  pulverize  kernels into flour, even whole-grain flour, what’s left  behind is a starchy  powder capable of wreaking havoc on the body.

The White Menace

Flour, as opposed to whole-kernel grains, is easy to over consume  because  most flour-based foods require little chewing and go down rather  quickly. “It  is so much easier to over consume any food where the work  of chewing or  digesting or separating fiber from starch has been done  for us,” says  functional nutritionist Julie Starkel, MS, MBA, RD.

Over consuming flour can lead to a number of problems in the body,  including:

Blood-Sugar Blues. Smashing a whole-kernel grain to   smithereens means it digests faster. Rapid-fire digestion causes blood  sugar to  spike, which causes a rise in insulin. The result? Not only are  you hungry two  hours later, but you are also paving the way for insulin  resistance and  diabetes. “The difference between a whole-kernel grain  and a processed grain  all boils down to the glycemic index, which is how  quickly the body turns food  into fuel, or glucose,” says Gerard Mullin,  MD, FACN, director of integrative  gastroenterology nutrition at Johns  Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Md., and  coauthor of The  Inside Tract: Your Good Gut Guide to Great Digestive Health (Rodale,  2011). Foods made with wheat flour are particularly damaging. A  carbohydrate in  wheat, called amylopectin A, is more easily converted  to blood sugar than just  about any other carbohydrate. Two slices of  bread made with whole-wheat flour  raise blood sugar higher than six  teaspoons of table sugar and higher than many  candy bars.

“If we were evil scientists and we said, ‘Let’s make the most perfect   poison,’ it would be wheat,” says preventive cardiologist William  Davis, MD.  (For more on why Davis advises against  eating any kind of  wheat —  including even whole-kernel grains — check out his book, Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight and Find Your Path  Back to Health (Rodale, 2011).)

Inflammation. A diet high in grains stokes inflammation.   When blood sugar spikes, glucose builds up  in the blood like so many   standby passengers on a flight. When glucose loiters  in the blood, it   gets into trouble by attaching itself to nearby proteins. The  result is a   chemical reaction called glycation, a pro-inflammatory process  that   plays a role in a host of inflammatory diseases — everything from    cataracts to arthritis to heart disease.

Food Cravings. Over the past 50 years, the amber  waves of  grain our grandparents enjoyed have been replaced with modern,  high-yield dwarf  strains of wheat that produce more seeds and grow  faster. The result is a  dietary wild card, says Davis: “Agricultural  geneticists never asked if these  new strains of wheat were suitable for  human consumption. Their safety has  never been tested.” One of the  biggest changes in modern wheat is that it  contains a modified form of  gliadin, a protein found in wheat gluten. Gliadin  unleashes a feel-good  effect in the brain by morphing into a substance that  crosses the  blood-brain barrier and binds onto the brain’s opiate receptors.   “Gliadin is a very mind-active compound that increases people’s  appetites,”  says Davis. “People on average eat 400 more calories a day  when eating wheat,  thanks to the appetite-stimulating effects of gliadin.”

Metabolic Slowdown. Research shows that the body may  shift  nutrients into fat storage and away from muscle burning in the  presence of  high-glycemic-index foods. In 2004, Ludwig and his  colleagues at Harvard  conducted a study, published in the journal Lancet,  in which they fed  rats diets with identical nutrients, except for the  type of starch. By the end  of the study, rats in both groups weighed  roughly the same, but those eating a  high-glycemic diet had 71 percent  more fat than the low-glycemic-index  group.

GI Disorders. Studies show that the lectins in  grains  inflame the lining of the gut and create fissures between cells.  Also, when  whole-kernel grains are refined, 80 percent of the fiber is  lost, and gut  health suffers. “Without the fiber, you end up with  rapid-release carbs in  these grains, which is a bad thing for the gut,”  says Kathie Swift, MS, RD,  coauthor (with Mullin) of The Inside Tract. Plus, fiber helps sweep the  gut of debris and supports the body’s  critically important elimination and  detoxification processes, which  also play a role in keeping high cholesterol  and inflammation at bay.

Food Allergies/Intolerances. Wheat, in particular,  is one  of the biggest dietary triggers of food allergies and  intolerances. While the  exact reason is unclear, many experts blame the  higher gluten content of modern  wheat varieties. A type of protein found  in many grains, including wheat,  gluten gives dough elasticity,  trapping air bubbles and creating a soft  texture. Because soft is  considered desirable, wheat today is bred to have more  gluten than ever  before.

Acid-Alkaline Imbalance. The  body has an elaborate  system of checks and balances to keep its pH  level at a steady 7.4. A  diet  high in acidic foods, such as grains,  forces the body to pull  calcium from the  bones to keep things on an  even keel. When researchers  looked at how the diets  of more than 500  women affected their bone  density, they found that a diet  high in  refined grains, among other  nutrient-poor foods, was linked to bone   loss. A highly acidic diet also  chips away at our cellular vitality  and immunity in ways that can  make  us vulnerable to chronic disease. “Grains  are the only plant  foods that  generate acidic byproducts,” says Davis. “Wheat,  in  particular, is among  the most potent sources of sulfuric acid, a  powerful  substance that  quickly overcomes the neutralizing effects of  alkaline  bases.”

 

7 Negative Effects of Refined Flour

7 Negative Effects of Refined Flour

By Catherine Guthrie, Experience Life

Flour is hard to sidestep come mealtime. Breakfast brims with toast, bagels, cereal, pancakes. Lunch is built around sandwiches, wraps, pasta, pizza. And dinner may come with its very own breadbasket.

Flours are produced by crushing grains into fine powders. And those powders form the basis not just for breads and buns, but for a huge variety of processed foods, from cereals, crackers and pizza dough to cookies, cakes and ice cream cones. As a result, the average American now eats 10 servings of refined grains each day.

As our national appetite for flour has inched up, so has the incidence of diet-related ills, such as obesity, heart disease and diabetes. Coincidence? Many nutrition experts don’t think so. When they weigh the evidence linking food choices and disease, they see the white, dusty fingerprints of flour everywhere.

“Now that trans fats are largely out of the food supply,” says David Ludwig, MD, PhD, director of the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center at Children’s Hospital Boston, “refined carbohydrates, including refined grain products, are the single most harmful influence in the American diet today.”

Flour started out as an ingenious fix to a vexing problem. Grass seeds were plentiful, but the tough outer shell (the husk) made the seeds difficult to chew and digest. Early humans outsmarted the seeds by grinding them between stones, crushing the outer layers to get at the goodness inside. The result — a coarse powder — was the first whole-grain flour.

The downside was spoilage. Crushing the germ released its oils, which quickly turned rancid when exposed to air. With the advent of industrial milling in the late 1800s, machines began filtering out the germ and pulverized the remaining endosperm into a fine, white powder that lasted on the shelf for months. And so all-purpose white flour was born — along with a host of health problems.

Beneath their rigid architecture, whole-kernel grains conceal an array of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and fiber. But when machines pulverize kernels into flour, even whole-grain flour, what’s left behind is a starchy powder capable of wreaking havoc on the body.

The White Menace

Flour, as opposed to whole-kernel grains, is easy to overconsume  because  most flour-based foods require little chewing and go down rather  quickly. “It  is so much easier to overconsume any food where the work  of chewing or  digesting or separating fiber from starch has been done  for us,” says  functional nutritionist Julie Starkel, MS, MBA, RD.

Overconsuming flour can lead to a number of problems in the body,  including:

Blood-Sugar Blues. Smashing a whole-kernel grain to   smithereens means it digests faster. Rapid-fire digestion causes blood  sugar to  spike, which causes a rise in insulin. The result? Not only are  you hungry two  hours later, but you are also paving the way for insulin  resistance and  diabetes. “The difference between a whole-kernel grain  and a processed grain  all boils down to the glycemic index, which is how  quickly the body turns food  into fuel, or glucose,” says Gerard Mullin,  MD, FACN, director of integrative  gastroenterology nutrition at Johns  Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Md., and  coauthor of The  Inside Tract: Your Good Gut Guide to Great Digestive Health (Rodale,  2011). Foods made with wheat flour are particularly damaging. A  carbohydrate in  wheat, called amylopectin A, is more easily converted  to blood sugar than just  about any other carbohydrate. Two slices of  bread made with whole-wheat flour  raise blood sugar higher than six  teaspoons of table sugar and higher than many  candy bars.

“If we were evil scientists and we said, ‘Let’s make the most perfect   poison,’ it would be wheat,” says preventive cardiologist William  Davis, MD.  (For more on why Davis advises against  eating any kind of  wheat —  including even whole-kernel grains — check out his book, Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight and Find Your Path  Back to Health (Rodale, 2011).)

Inflammation. A diet high in grains stokes inflammation.   When blood sugar spikes, glucose builds up  in the blood like so many   standby passengers on a flight. When glucose loiters  in the blood, it   gets into trouble by attaching itself to nearby proteins. The  result is a   chemical reaction called glycation, a pro-inflammatory process  that   plays a role in a host of inflammatory diseases — everything from    cataracts to arthritis to heart disease.

Food Cravings. Over the past 50 years, the amber  waves of  grain our grandparents enjoyed have been replaced with modern,  high-yield dwarf  strains of wheat that produce more seeds and grow  faster. The result is a  dietary wild card, says Davis: “Agricultural  geneticists never asked if these  new strains of wheat were suitable for  human consumption. Their safety has  never been tested.” One of the  biggest changes in modern wheat is that it  contains a modified form of  gliadin, a protein found in wheat gluten. Gliadin  unleashes a feel-good  effect in the brain by morphing into a substance that  crosses the  blood-brain barrier and binds onto the brain’s opiate receptors.   “Gliadin is a very mind-active compound that increases people’s  appetites,”  says Davis. “People on average eat 400 more calories a day  when eating wheat,  thanks to the appetite-stimulating effects of gliadin.”

Metabolic Slowdown. Research shows that the body may  shift  nutrients into fat storage and away from muscle burning in the  presence of  high-glycemic-index foods. In 2004, Ludwig and his  colleagues at Harvard  conducted a study, published in the journal Lancet,  in which they fed  rats diets with identical nutrients, except for the  type of starch. By the end  of the study, rats in both groups weighed  roughly the same, but those eating a  high-glycemic diet had 71 percent  more fat than the low-glycemic-index  group.

GI Disorders. Studies show that the lectins in  grains  inflame the lining of the gut and create fissures between cells.  Also, when  whole-kernel grains are refined, 80 percent of the fiber is  lost, and gut  health suffers. “Without the fiber, you end up with  rapid-release carbs in  these grains, which is a bad thing for the gut,”  says Kathie Swift, MS, RD,  coauthor (with Mullin) of The Inside Tract. Plus, fiber helps sweep the  gut of debris and supports the body’s  critically important elimination and  detoxification processes, which  also play a role in keeping high cholesterol  and inflammation at bay.

Food Allergies/Intolerances. Wheat, in particular,  is one  of the biggest dietary triggers of food allergies and  intolerances. While the  exact reason is unclear, many experts blame the  higher gluten content of modern  wheat varieties. A type of protein found  in many grains, including wheat,  gluten gives dough elasticity,  trapping air bubbles and creating a soft  texture. Because soft is  considered desirable, wheat today is bred to have more  gluten than ever  before.

Acid-Alkaline Imbalance. The  body has an elaborate  system of checks and balances to keep its pH  level at a steady 7.4. A  diet  high in acidic foods, such as grains,  forces the body to pull  calcium from the  bones to keep things on an  even keel. When researchers  looked at how the diets  of more than 500  women affected their bone  density, they found that a diet  high in  refined grains, among other  nutrient-poor foods, was linked to bone   loss. A highly acidic diet also  chips away at our cellular vitality  and immunity in ways that can  make  us vulnerable to chronic disease. “Grains  are the only plant  foods that  generate acidic byproducts,” says Davis. “Wheat,  in  particular, is among  the most potent sources of sulfuric acid, a  powerful  substance that  quickly overcomes the neutralizing effects of  alkaline  bases.”