Lectins have definitely been a hot topic recently and with good reason. In the last several months, I have had numerous patients with various complaints and all were traced back to lectins as the root cause. So, what are lectins?
Lectins are large proteins that bind to carbohydrates (polysaccharides and sialic acid). They are found in seeds, grains, skins, rinds, and leaves in most plants, but are predominately found in higher quantities in beans, grains, nuts, seeds, and nightshades (tomatoes, potatoes, all peppers, okra, eggplant, paprika, and cayenne pepper).
In plants, lectins play a crucial role in defense and communication for cell organization. However, in humans their role is much different and can be a huge contributor to several health issues our society faces on a daily basis.
Our bodies are not capable of properly breaking down lectins and neither are most cooking methods. Therefore, for a normal person, eating foods high in lectins can be a major problem. For a more sensitive person, even low amounts of lectins can cause the same amount of problems.
I see a lot of patients dealing with increased intestinal permeability (leaky gut) and lectins are not always, but a lot of times, the root cause. Leaky gut allows direct access to our bloodstream for various things that would not normally have any access to our bloodstream, leading to autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, Grave’s disease, psoriasis, scleroderma, lupus, Sjogren syndrome, and Celiac disease, to name a few.
Dysbiosis is an imbalance in our gut ecology and lectins create an environment that makes it more susceptible. So, lectins can make it easier for you to get dysbiosis and harder to treat if they are not addressed appropriately. For this reason, I typically treat both of them at the same time unless a patient has specific sensitivities or other factors prohibiting this treatment.
Lectins interfere with cellular communication and are toxic to our nervous and immune system. Someone that continually gets sick or experiences any of the following symptoms below could have issues with lectins.
Nervous System Toxicity Symptoms:
- Tongue Numbness
- Metallic Taste
- Visual and auditory disturbances (difficulty focusing and tinnitus)
Skin irritations or rashes are another common occurrence I see with patients having issues with lectins. So, if you had multiple trips to the dermatologist to no avail, you possibly could be dealing with a lectin issue.
Here are other conditions that lectins can be responsible for:
- Endocrine Disruption
- Chronic Fatigue
- Brain Fog
- Heart Disease
- Weight Gain/ Obesity
Recommendations to Reduce Lectins:
- Cut out the following foods entirely:
- Corn and corn-fed ‘free-range’ meats – Instead, choose only pasture-raised meats.
- Casein A1 Milk – stick to A2 milk, Southern European cow’s milk, goat’s milk, and buffalo milk if you must drink milk.
- Limit the following foods that are high in lectins:
- Beans and Legumes, Grains, Squash, and Nightshades
- Add the following natural foods to your diet:
- Cooked Tubers – sweet potatoes, yucca, and taro root
- Leafy Greens – romaine, red and green leaf lettuce, kohlrabi, spinach, endive, butter lettuce, parsley, fennel, and sea vegetables.
- Cruciferous Vegetables – broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts
- Additional Veggies and Foods – asparagus, garlic, celery, mushrooms, onions, avocados, olives, and olive oil.
Other Ways to Reduce Lectins in Your Diet:
- Cooking and Preparation
- Pressure cooker
- As I mentioned, our bodies are not capable of breaking down/digesting lectins and for a lot of my patient’s they need extra support. This is where Supreme Nutrition’s Lectin Protect comes to the rescue. However, no supplement is perfect and I will keep an eye out for any new lectin binding products that hit the market.
Dr. Nicholas Grable
- Cordain, Loren, et al. “Modulation of immune function by dietary lectins in rheumatoid arthritis.” British Journal of Nutrition 83.3 (2000): 207-217.
- Holthöfer, H., et al. “Ulex europaeus I lectin as a marker for vascular endothelium in human tissues.” Laboratory investigation; a journal of technical methods and pathology 47.1 (1982): 60-66.
- De Punder, Karin, and Leo Pruimboom. “The dietary intake of wheat and other cereal grains and their role in inflammation.” Nutrients 5.3 (2013): 771-787.
- Gundry, S. R., & Buehl, O. B. (2017). The plant paradox: The hidden dangers in “healthy” foods that cause disease and weight gain.