Rice was the most cultivated species in Asia, sorghum and millet in Africa, and in America, maize, or corn, was the major crop. Wheat and barley containing very low gluten content were grown only in Southwest Asia. As time went on, farming of wheat and barley spread into Europe. But our ancestors never ate bread as we know it today.
The industrial and agricultural revolutions of the past 200 years have changed our diet faster than we can change genetically. Today, our wheat crops have a high gluten content (50 percent higher than centuries ago, in some cases) for the purpose of improved bread baking, and with it, we see a rise in the prevalence of gluten intolerance. Just as humans are predisposed to store excess calories as fat, the same genetic makeup that tolerated wheat with low gluten levels cannot tolerate modern foods with high gluten levels.
Unfortunately, we Americans have come to rely on wheat to fill our bellies. Instead of dining on the fruits, vegetables, meats, and fish eaten by our ancestors, today our diets are loaded with gluten-laden wheat-based foods: breads, pastas, pizza, cookies, muffins, and bagels. Gluten is also the second most common additive in all packaged foods (sugar is the most common). Its prevalence, combined with an overall lack of knowledge about gluten intolerance, means that many individuals who are believed to have undiagnosed celiac disease are not even aware that gluten could be the root cause of their ailments.
Modernization may have exacerbated gluten sensitivity, but luckily it provided gluten-free flour alternatives so a child with celiac disease can enjoy a cupcake at his or her own birthday party. And now, for less money and in less time than it takes to go out and buy it, you can make a gluten-free dessert that’s so delicious, everyone will want some.