Ok, well not really so new as they've been with us all along, only we didn't realize it until recently when Dr. Steven Gundry, world renown heart surgeon, started sharing his findings. They've always been in our foods, so what's the big deal about them now? Let's first dive into what lectins are, where they are found and what they do.
Lectins are a type of protein that does not digest. They bind to cell membranes and cause molecules stick together. They also influence how cells interact with each other. Gluten is just one example of a lectin protein. Lectins are found in abundance in grains, legumes, the seeds of plants where the leaves sprout from, as well as in the coating on the seed. You'll also find them in dairy products and in some fruits and vegetables. Raw kidney beans for example have so many they can actually be toxic and really make you sick. Just to put some numbers to this, raw kidney beans have 20,000 – 70,000 lectins, while fully cooked beans contain only 200-400. A significant difference. Grandma was onto something years ago long-soaking her beans overnight and then slow cooking them all day before serving them up for dinner. The same holds true for lentils.
Lectins have always been in foods, however the altering of plants through GMO has created fluctuations in the amount. These fluctuations unfortunately have happened much more quickly than our bodies can adapt to, resulting in many of today's issues. Processed and packaged foods are also full of lectins. And when GMO fluctuations are combined with the steady increase in processed foods consumed in the North America, the Standard American Diet (SAD), the result is very sad indeed.
Because our bodies can't digest lectins it makes antibodies to try and counter against them. These antibodies stimulate a variety of responses depending on how lectin-rich a person's diet is and how each individual responds to it. We're all different, so responses and the severity of them vary from person to person. One person will experience an immune system response while another may have some sort of reaction and no longer be able to eat certain foods. Others might experience discomfort with gas, diarrhea, bloating, or even feel sick with nausea and/or vomiting. Still others may have a combination of any or all of these.
Our gut is the brain of our health. If things aren't working well in your gut, health is compromised. The gut's job is to keep all the bad stuff contained while letting the good stuff pass through to be absorbed into the body. Sometimes food causes minor damage to the lining of the GI tract which normally heals quickly. Too many lectins in the mix actually prevents healing. Over time, this can cause leaky gut - a condition where the intestinal wall is compromised allowing bacteria and toxins to seep into the body and wreak havoc with your health. Infections, toxins, stress, sugar, and alcohol also contribute to leaky gut so best to avoid especially if you're already suffering from digestive issues.
Some signs of leaky gut are, gas, bloating, chronic diarrhea, IBS, food intolerances/allergies, brain fog, mood imbalances, skin issues, fibromyalgia, hormonal imbalances, auto-immune disease, nutritional deficiencies, poor immune system. Is it just a coincidence that some of the top allergens like wheat, soy, peanut, tree nuts, shellfish) also contain the most lectins? Food for thought....
Society as a whole has been steadily consuming more and more packaged/processed foods while at the same time also consuming several servings of whole grains for good health. Clearly this is not working. Our food also eats more grains than grass. You are not only what you eat, you're what your food eats as well. Many of you today will eat grains with your steak, or grilled chicken even though you didn't put any on your plate.
Here are six simple things you can do to reduce lectin intake and restore a healthy gut. 1. Ditch all packaged/processed items including sugar (real and fake) soda and alcohol. 2. Add in some fermented foods to help the gut heal. 3. Work on eliminating stress. 4. Eat small, balanced meals throughout the day to balance blood sugar and put the body into homeostasis (balance) – remember our PFC every 3? 5. Use a pre and pro-biotic to restore healthy gut bacteria. 6. Drink two to three litres of water per day.
If you're experiencing some or all of what we covered today, I invite you to try these six simple things. My gut tells me you'll be glad you did.
Kelowna Nutritionist STOP dieting, start living! Lose the Bloat, Melt your Belly, Love Your Life!! Last thing, last time, believe it! Sign up to receive my bi-weekly FIT Nutrition blog, and get started today.