I’m guessing dietary lectins are most likely not on your radar screen. Not unless you’re fairly heavily involved in the world of food science and/or nutrition in general, anyway.
Most everyday people don’t know about lectins and neither do many doctors! Considering the damage these nasty little boogers can do, that’s really not so good.
So what are lectins anyway?
Lectins are proteins that bind to carbohydrates, cells and tissues. These proteins do not break down easily and consequently cause inflammation in the body. Not only do they cause inflammation, they can be toxic and resistant to digestive enzymes.
This resistance to stomach acid means that lectins are free to latch on to the wall of your stomach where they can then contribute to the erosion of your intestinal barrier. That, my friends, is known as leaky gut and it’s about as pretty as it sounds.
With the gut lining being damaged, other proteins can sneak through into the body in an undigested state it causes an immune response which in turn, may cause all kinds of other problems including:
– Crohn’s disease
– Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
– Coeliac-Sprue (celiac)
– Insulin-dependent diabetes
– Rheumatoid arthritis
– Food allergies and sensitivities
– Low energy
– Weight gain
When lectins are out there circulating through your bloodstream, they’re then free to bind with any tissue in your body. This includes the pancreas, thyroid and even the collagen in your joints. That binding to important tissue triggers your white blood cells to attack the tissue that the lectin has attached onto, effectively then destroying it. Lectin protein in wheat, for example, is known to cause rheumatoid arthritis as it attaches to joint collagen!
So what’s the big deal, Leanne?
The big deal is that lectins are found in a lot of the food we eat, like:
– Grains including wheat, wheat germ, rice, oats, buckwheat, rye, barley, corn, millet and quinoa
– Nightshade foods: tomatoes, potatoes, cucumbers, eggplant and capsicum
– Some seafoods
So why are some people able to tolerate these foods and others aren’t?
Some people do seem to be able to tolerate lectins better than others while some folks have severe lectin sensitivities. If you’re in this category, your body is unable to stop lectin from binding to cells in your body and you must eliminate lectins from your diet.
Truth be told, I think we’d all benefit by eliminating at least some of these lectin-bearing foods from our diet, especially grains and maybe even dairy (especially non-fermented dairy). Once these are eliminated, a lot of people feel the benefits with improved energy, better sleep and a better overall feeling of well-being.
Check out our Paleo Primer and see if a paleo lifestyle (which will remove lectins from your diet) is something you might be interested in pursuing!
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