Lectins are nature's protective mechanism for plants. Let's face it, plants can't fight back or run away from the things that are trying to eat them, mainly insects and animals. So as a form of defense, plants produce a type of protective protein called lectins. So when ingested by the insect or animal, it ends up damaging (or even killing) the thing that ate it. Sounds crazy right? But it's absolutely true. One of the more popular books that discusses this very problem with lectins is The Plant Paradox by Dr. Steven Gundry. So what happens to humans when we ingest lectins? A lot of bad stuff, primarily inflammation. Systemic inflammation.
Lectins and Chronic Inflammation
Inflammation is approaching the forefront of health, becoming a well-known cause for illness. Like all illness, from acne to arthritis to headaches. Many holistic practitioners are pointing to systemic #inflammation as a cause for our sickness and food is one of the easiest ways to fight back.
But what is inflammation? Inflammation is a body system wide immune reaction to invaders such as #gluten, aluminum or lectins. A reoccurring immune reaction can lead to auto-immune diseases. Getting to the root cause of inflammation can be like solving a 1000 piece puzzle while other times it’s as easy as refusing Doritos to stop the intake of MSG. Ok, so MSG seems obvious is an obvious offender. How can a plant protein cause inflammation?
Lectins and Leaky Gut
When a lectin enters the #gut, it is perceived as an invader. The body goes into a defensive stance, just like it would if you had a cold or a sprained ankle. Except the lectin protein causes a disruption in the gut lining. The gut lining is only about 50 microns thick. This is protecting you from everything you bring in from the outside (air, food, water, etc.). On the other side of that wall is the bloodstream. Lectins interfere with the junctions that keep the wall together preventing bad stuff from ever reaching the bloodstream. So when we have gaps in those tight junctions we get something called leaky gut. This causes the all out war and rise in whole body inflammation. And leaky gut can manifest in a wide range of symptoms like #fibromyalgia, thyroid dysfunction, brain fog, skin issues, auto-immune diseases, vitamin deficiency, and the list goes on.
What to avoid?
The unfortunate part about avoiding lectins is they are in the vegetables commonly used in restaurants and at home. Foods like peppers, tomatoes, squash, beans, and potatoes. Foods that you thought might be "healthy" could be causing an all out inflammatory war inside your body. A complete list can be found on this page https://gundrymd.com/plant-paradox-shopping-list/. Remember to try to avoid these types of foods:
Gluten (gluten is a lectin)
Foods with peels on the outside and seeds on the inside (the pumpkin and cucumber types)
Legumes (beans, peanuts, peanut butter)
Nightshades (eggplant, tomatoes, peppers, jalapeno)
Removing Lectins From Your Diet
First of all it's impossible to remove all lectins from your diet and be "healthy". Some lectins in small amounts are actually beneficial our health and the health of our digestive tract. Small amounts of lectins have shown to cause a mild stress to the digestive tract which in turn strengthens our ability to digest and utilize nutrients.
Steering clear of lectins goes hand in hand with the other now common recommendations such as eating non-GMO, kicking vegetable oils, and being grain free. These habits continue to reoccur in the nutrition world because they are no joke health helpers. Sounds overwhelming but is totally doable when you stop and do some real grocery list building. And what does that look like? There is no need to do a complete kitchen overhaul as some lectin ridden foods can be cooked and good to eat in no time. In fact, pressure cooking beans breaks down the protein. It might be time to try some new pizza toppings. And for the health of it, new pizza crust such as cauliflower. Snack baggies may take on a different look once cashews are kicked. And breakfast is better with full fats from eggs and avocado versus corn flakes or fake ‘health’ shakes.
Once #lectins and other offensive foods are removed from daily use our body can spend time healing and thriving instead of constantly fighting. A body that is constantly under attack becomes ill in some way. Whether it be through simple fatigue or more serious symptoms, these ailments are a warning sign that something is seriously wrong and needs attention. Take the challenge, lose the lectins and let me know how you feel.