Dinner Diva: The scoop on dietary lectins

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 onto 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:
• Colitis
• Crohn’s disease
• Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
• Coeliac-Sprue (celiac)
• Insulin-dependent diabetes
• Rheumatoid arthritis
• Ulcers
• 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 to, 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:
• Legumes
• Dairy
• Grains including wheat, wheat germ, rice, oats, buckwheat, rye, barley, corn, millet, and quinoa
• Nightshade foods: tomatoes, potatoes, cucumbers, eggplant, and capsicum
• Some seafood
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 of improved energy, better sleep, and a better overall feeling of well-being.

PS–You can receive delicious Paleo menus (complete with shopping lists!) delivered right to your email inbox by subscribing to Dinner Answers today!

0 Responses

  1. Leann, This page is an example of why there is so much confusion about what we should eat to be healthy.  As I scrolled down on this page, I read about avoiding foods that contain  lectins – grains, dairy, legumes, night shade foods, and some seafood.  Then I scroll down and read about foods good for my heart and read that I should be eating the following – oatmeal, salmon, berries, and legumes.  See the contradiction?  How frustrating is it to see the exact same foods (grain/oatmeal, legumes, seafood/salmon) on each list!  So do I eat it or not?!?  Actually, I am only recently pretty comfortable with my decisions I have made about my own health, so I am not looking for an answer personally.  But I would expect a single website to be consistent with what they recommend.

  2. Help me understand Leanne – so should we eat oats, legumes and seafood or not?  Your article seems to contradict itself and I am left confused and unsure of what you are advocating.   Please clarify. 

  3. I don’t understand – the top part says no grains and no legumes and the heart part says eat oatmeal and beans

  4. Yes, please help me to understand all of this. I have Crohns Disease and eat oatmeal porridge every morning for breakfast. I thought it was good for me and helps keep bad cholesterol down, but could it be doing me more harm than good as far as inflammation goes ?

    1. Kate this is a great question for Leanne on her Blog Talk Radio show. You can submit the questions at dearleanne at saving dinner dot com. Or you can call in live and ask, the show is on the air Wednesdays at 12:00 EST. Please email customer service if you need any more information about Blog Talk Radio or would like to submit a request for assistance. (use the contact us tab on the site)

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