Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you are probably aware that having an unhealthy diet of processed and fast foods is not a wise choice if you want to stay free of disease and maintain a normal bodyweight.
But what if I told you that even a healthy diet could make you sick?
That is, if you eat a lot of foods that are high in lectins.
Here’s the scoop on lectins—what they are, the long list of health issues they can cause, and how you can minimize your risk.
Lectins—Nature’s bug repellant for plants
Lectins are sticky plant proteins that bind to sugar (carbohydrate) molecules on the surface of cells. They do serve a valid purpose—they were designed by Nature as a way for plants to be able to defend themselves against predatory insects.
Unfortunately, bugs aren’t the only ones who may be affected by lectins—because we humans can be too.
Now, lectins in small amounts are typically fine for most people, and they do serve some important functions including fighting fungi, viral and bacterial infections, and even protecting against cancer.
But problems can begin to arise if you’re getting too many of them and/or if you are highly sensitive to them.
Here’s what I mean—hang on to your hat:
The seemingly endless list of lectin-related health problems
One of the most serious issues with lectins is that they trigger inflammation in your body. Inflammation is major contributing factor behind most chronic diseases including cancer, heart disease and arthritis.
Immune, endocrine, blood and digestive issues
Lectins can also stimulate inappropriate immune responses (such as those seen in autoimmune conditions); they can make your blood thick and sticky (getting you into clotting trouble); they can disrupt endocrine function (leading to hormonal imbalances) and cause digestive issues.
Lectins can bind to certain areas in your intestinal wall and interfere with nutrient absorption, leaving you open to deficiencies—this is why they are considered “antinutrients.”
Lectins can also cause unhealthy changes to your gut microbiome (thereby weakening your immune functioning) and lead to intestinal permeability (leaky gut).
Once your gut wall is leaky, this paves the way for toxins, bacteria, viruses, heavy metals, old worn out hormones and cholesterol, and poorly digested food molecules to enter your bloodstream--stirring up inflammation, triggering food sensitivities, and compromising the functioning of your cells, tissues and organs.
Particularly dangerous are heavy metals—especially if they reach the brain. For example, aluminum has been found in large concentration in the brains of Alzheimer’s and autism patients, and mercury can cause mental dysfunction, fatigue, poor memory, decreased senses of touch, hearing and vision, and depression.
In addition, if old cholesterol and hormones are not eliminated like they should be, and instead are reabsorbed into circulation through a leaky gut wall, that can increase your risk of elevated cholesterol levels and hormone-dependent cancers.
Certain lectins (especially those found in wheat) are attracted to glucosamine—the polysaccharide that covers your joints—leading to joint problems and pain.
So where are these troublemakers lurking anyway?
Lectins are found in high concentration in the following foods:
- Wheat—FYI, the gluten in wheat is another antinutrient that wreaks havoc with many people
- Beans and legumes—kidney beans, lima beans, black beans, soybeans, lentils, peanuts
- Nuts and seeds—cashews, almonds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds
- Nightshade vegetables—potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, bell peppers
Many of these foods are common allergens as well, and I don’t think that’s a coincidence. All allergies are an inflammatory immune response and lectins can do their part to stir the pot.
Should you avoid lectins?
Not everyone has an issue with lectins—many people can eat wheat, beans, nuts and nightshades, enjoying the awesome nutritional benefits of those foods, and not incur any negative effects.
Others, however, suffer the consequences.
People who should minimize or avoid lectin-containing foods include those who have:
- Autoimmune diseases (including MS, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, Crohn’s disease and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis)
- Heart disease
- Arthritis and joint pains
- Food allergies or sensitivities
How will I know?
If you’ve had unexplained symptoms of gas and bloating, skin eruptions or rashes, joint pains, autoimmune issues or haven’t been able to lose weight, you may have a degree of lectin sensitivity.
You can start by doing a simple home test. If you suspect lectins may be triggering issues in your body, then remove the food sources of lectins I listed above from your diet for 3 weeks and see how you feel.
If you feel significantly better, you’ll have your answer.
How to reduce lectin levels in foods
Note that you can help reduce the level of lectins in certain foods simply by peeling nightshades and discarding the peels and seeds, and soaking beans and legumes in water for 12 hours prior to cooking.
Cooking removes many of the lectins too—especially in tomatoes—and fermenting and sprouting helps as well.
This allows you to enjoy the nutritional benefits of lectin-containing foods while reducing your risk of having problems!
Heal your gut too
If you believe lectins have caused you problems, or just want to support strong gut health, then it’s imperative to help heal your gut, repopulate your microbiome and curb inflammation.
Here are 4 very effective measures that can help:
- Bifidobacterium bifidum
- Bifidobacterium longum
- Bifidobacterium breve
- Bifidobacterium infantis
- Lactobacillus para casei
- Lactobacillus acidophilus
- Lactobacillus bulgaricus
- Lactobacillus rhamnosus
4) Support efficient digestion.
Efficient digestion is the result of 2 very important factors—eating meals that are easier for your system to digest and ensuring you have enough digestive enzymes for the job.
My Great Taste No Pain system will show you what to do with your meals! You’ll learn what foods to pair together (and what combinations to avoid) for dramatically improved digestion, more regular bowel movements and less gas, bloating and heartburn! Plus, you’ll get a collection of the most delicious recipes you’ve ever tasted.
And if you feel you are running low in enzymes (if heartburn is your regular companion, or you belch after meals or you’re missing your gallbladder, trust me, enzymes are probably an issue for you), then a complete digestive enzyme formula like Digestizol Max can help pinch-hit where your body may be lacking.
To your health,
Thanks Sherry, as always, very informative and helpful. I have learned to trust what you say and believe that you have our health as your motivation.