Anatolijs Danilāns, Professor of Riga Stradins' University, gastroenterologist, author of several books
Rye bread is a good nutritional product. It seems genetically essential for Latvians, it has been praised in Latvian folk songs and brought to the honourable place under the Sun.
I will say straight away that I am against attacks to bread crust. The campaign against the crust has failed. Just forget about this suspicion and eat crust as you wish! If one has weak teeth or it is difficult to chew it, the crust can be easily cut off. I am always saying: no one needs to strive! It is not like rye bread would be totally unreplaceable; you don't need to eat it if you do not want to, something else can be found.
Diseases that may be cause by eating bread are rare. Celiac disease and few others. Less than one per cent of people suffer from celiac disease in Latvia, moreover doctors can easily diagnose it. In case of anaemia, weight loss laboratory tests have to be done fast and it should be checked whether flour dishes are good for you.
Nature has done a good job with us, it has given strong stomach and intestine system, therefore just food, moreover bread, cannot damage it in any way despite how hard one tries! Except only if the eater has exaggerated with overconsumption of any product. Variety of dishes is the recommended scientific base. We may eat meat and fish, not even speaking about vegetable and fruit. Doctors and nutritionists have also exonerated eggs, so you can safely eat them! The same refers to dairy products which we viewed with a lot of suspicion some time ago; we have now admitted that they are useful for strengthening bones.
I would just like to remind one detail: in rough rye bread, like in white bread calories are hiding . The only difference is that white bread - sorry to say! – gets just swallowed in much higher quantity, even half a loaf can be finished very fast. Rye bread has its own protection shield: while you are carefully chewing a slice, you are no longer so hungry.
Most probably, by now everybody in Latvia knows that wholegrain rye bread contains fibre, and fibre is good for improving the bowel emptying process. But there is one more truth not yet known by many: fibre also helps strengthening the intestine mucous membrane. However, not all of it. Just a few. Bread contains the good, hard-working fibre which is useful for us. After having managed the intestine mucous membrane, fibre also heals liver, has positive impact upon blood vessels, heart and skin. Now doctors know: fibre is the good guy! Sometimes patients complain that their test results indicate that there is too much fat in liver. What should be done? While something still can be done, fibre will be the best medicine.
Everything changes fast in the life, in particular in the very complicated and important process like nutrition. People search, listen to themselves and finally ... do find! "I had a slice of black bread and I started feeling heaviness..." Bread was first, discomfort came later. Is therefore bread to blame? My dear, this has not been proven yet. I would like to refer to a paradoxical comparison. It is said that Japanese, both men and women, live longest. And it is not quite so that they would eat just excellent fish every day. Now I will say something more that will probably sound shocking to you: as it is known, Japan is the only country on the planet Earth having suffered from nuclear bombs. Thus, following the same logic of eating bread, one could conclude: blasts of nuclear bombs extend the human life. Because nuclear bombs were first and the longest life was found later. Absurd?! By this I wanted to say that we should not hurry so much with finding causal relationships.
For the ones who have suspicion that they have damaged their stomachs by eating bread I would repeat once again: you cannot do this just with food for a longer period of time. Of course, it may happen that you eat peas, beans that your stomach bloats enormously. However, all this will be digested and the stomach will stay as healthy as it was.
I could warn bread eaters about just one aspect: bread contains starch, therefore it should not be consumed in large quantities. Starch contains long glucose molecules which do not cause any harm to the gastrointestinal tract, however, are very undesirable for blood vessels. Remember: starch is the bad guy! Therefore you should not exaggerate with eating white bread and potatoes. In particular this applies to people who experience overweight problems.
Another reminder is about decent chewing of food. It is not because a large chunk of bread would stuck or will not pass the intestine tract. You should not worry about this. There is an examination method: gastroenterologists use quite big metal capsules which a patient should swallow. This capsule passes the whole body and records everything it sees on its way starting from teeth to the very bottom. Finally it falls into the pot and doctors obtain the picture of the patient's internal organs from it. You don't have to be afraid - we do not wash it and do not give it to the next patient to swallow, we do not use the same capsule twice. However, in this case it is most important that the big capsule does not get stuck in intestines and successfully passes the intestine tract. The main reason why food should be chewed is that saliva produces a strengthening substance which heals stomach and intestine issues, heals ulcers and does other good things. Doctors refer to it as an epidermal growth factor, and the chewer should only know that saliva is a very valuable substance. This is quite a recent finding by researchers - I participated in a congress not long ago where Japanese clearly demonstrated the beneficial impact of saliva. Therefore another recommendation by doctors provided some time ago should be revised, in particular, that chewing gums are not god because produced saliva in between meals would just cause production of gastric juice. It does cause the production, nothing has changed from this regard, but it turns out that saliva has healing instead of ruining effect. As I said: Doctors' views change along with every new finding. Also this finding attests that eating of rye bread should be supported. Rye bread is nothing like porridge which just flows down without any extra chewing effort.
Though, I cannot ascertain that there is nothing better than rye bread in the world. Of course, if you are very patriotic-minded you may say so. As a doctor I say: rye bread is a normal nutrient product which can be safely consumed. Not too much though. What is too much may cause harm. Now we are fighting to achieve that chips and cola does not become the major food for children. I should be admitted that neither of them contains anything that would be life-threatening. If you eat and drink this once in a while, nothing bad will happen. Just not too often and not too much! Also, I ask you not to try to survive on just bread and water. Let this saying remain in criminal novels!