Lectins are a new and important subject for me, thanks to a friend having shared a video about them recently. Now I want to share what information I have gathered regarding lectins with my readers in order to educated them. Especially those who are suffering gut problems when ingesting certain grains and legumes. This post will focus on grains.
WHAT ARE LECTINS?
Lectins are a type of protein that can bind to cell membranes. They are thought to play a role in immune function, cell growth, cell death, and body fat regulation. They are commonly found in legumes and grains.
PROBLEMS ASSOCIATED WITH CONSUMING LECTINS
Because we don’t digest lectins, our bodies can create antibodies to them. However, at the same time, our bodies also use lectins for cell to cell adherence, inflammatory modulation and programmed cell death.
Consuming lectins in their raw form can cause flatulence, nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting. Not a pleasant experience!
This is what is called GI Distress, Leaky Gut, or Wheat Belly. Whatever you want to call it, it is happening because the intestinal lining of the gut is being damaged. When our gut rejects the lectins, and expels them in the form of diarrhea, it also expels good things like vitamins and minerals, leaving us vulnerable to a weakened immune system.
Grain, cereal, dairy, legumes, peanuts, and soybean lectins are most commonly associated with reports of digestive complaints.
LECTINS AND GRAINS
It’s true, we should be consuming unrefined grains which contain more nutrients. Unfortunately, they also contain lectins.
SOAKING, FERMENTING, OR SPROUTING GRAINS
Modern processing of food such as grains does not include soaking, fermenting, or sprouting them. WHY? Because that would cut into PROFIT (more time consuming).
Our ancestors, on the other hand, knew how to grow and prepare grains; they knew from thousands of years of survival experience. Before the invention of modern agriculture, grains were a minor and seasonal crop, and they knew how to rotate, store, and prepare their grains from one season to the next. Now, food processors take grains grown by huge agribusiness corporations, into processing plants without the benefit of proper preparation. The consumer then goes to the store, and buys processed grain products in the form of whole grain pasta, bread, rice, quinoa, kamut, amaranth, oats, barley, spelt, soy, and chips, unknowingly potentially harming themselves. Even if these products say “USDA ORGANIC”, they still contain lectins, unless they also say “sprouted” or “fermented”.
Lectins and Immune Response
Our immune systems are designed to protect us from “invaders”. However, our immune systems can only take so much, and wears out, just like anything else. Because we don’t digest lectins, we often produce antibodies to them. Almost everyone has antibodies to some dietary lectins in their body. We may not know this for some time, until we start showing symptoms of immune system overload in the form of skin rashes, joint pain, flatulence, nausea, diarrhea, inflammation, vomiting, cancer, diabetes, and Chron’s Disease, etc. The list goes on and on.
Researchers are also looking at autism as a symptom due to the fact that many children with autism have high rates of leaky gut and other inflammatory GI tract diseases.
Finally, when lectins affect the gut wall, it may also cause a broader immune system response as the body’s defenses move in to attack the invader. In fact you could be dying without realizing it until it is too late. Why chance it? The answer: know what you are eating at all times. Don’t assume that the FDA is looking out for you.