Lectins and Leaky Gut Syndrome

By Tony Allwood


Lectins are a way that nature has equipped itself with its own system of defence and the way that vegetation defends itself against larger predators such as humans and animals. Lectins found in grains, nuts, legumes and nightshade vegetables have been linked with digestive distress, leaky gut syndrome and chronic inflammation.

Find out how to minimize the damaging effects of lectins in your diet:
Lectins are carbohydrate binding proteins that are present in both plants and animals. Their role is to protect plant species and they also support immunological functions within their respective species. They are sticky molecules that bind sugars and cause functional shifts in the body. Lectins have been reported to damage the gastrointestinal lining and create states of chronic systemic inflammation.

Lectins and Leaky Gut Syndrome:
Lectins have been shown to bind with the intestinal lining and in particular the villi of the small intestine. The villi are the little pockets that nutrients flow into before they cross into the bloodstream. When the villi are damaged by the lectins the body is unable to effectively digest and absorb nutrients from the small intestine. The damage and inflammation the lectins cause also creates a dysbiotic gut flora that encourages parasites and other pathogenicorganisms.
This process leads to leaky gut syndrome in which the intestinal lining has open gaps and now lectins and other particles and pathogenic organisms are able to get directly into the bloodstream. Lectins that are free floating in the bloodstream have an affinity for the insulin and leptin receptors and are believed to desensitise these receptors contributing to insulin and leptin resistance in the body.

Lectins and Chronic Inflammation:
The body also creates an immune response to the lectin molecules as it tags them as antigens or foreign particles that could be harmful. This leads to an auto-immune reaction where the immune system will attack tissues that lectins attach . Once this sensitization of the immune system takes place the body will also become highly inflamed when one consumes foods containing high amounts of lectins.

WHEAT CONTAINS A LECTIN CALLED WHEAT GERM AGGLUTIN OR WGA. MANY INDIVIDUALS HAVE A HIGH LEVEL OF SENSITIVITY TO WGA AND THIS IS OFTEN MISTAKEN AS A GLUTEN SENSITIVITY. Lectins inhibit nerve growth factor which affects the ability of the nerves to heal and repair effectively. Many individuals never test positive for a gluten allergen yet they have WGA sensitivity that is causing severe inflammatory problems in their body.

Foods That Contain the Most Lectins:
Legumes (especially soy)
Grains of all Kinds
Raw Nuts
Nightshade Vegetables such as Eggplant, Tomatoes, Potatoes & Peppers

Removing Lectins From Your Foods:
The first and most important thing to remember is that it is impossible to remove all lectins and not healthy. Some level of lectin consumption helps provide a mild stress to the digestive system that strengthens our digestive capabilities. The key is to avoid over consuming lectins…which is a variable that is different for everyone based on the health of your digestive system.
The lectins in grains, legumes and nuts seem to be more challenging than those in other fruits and vegetables. These are the first to focus on reducing consumption of and often it is all the individual needs to be careful with.

Soaking and Sprouting:
Soaking, boiling and sprouting grains, legumes, nuts and seeds all helps to decrease the number of lectins but none fully eliminates them except for pressure cooking. Lectins are fairly resistant to enzymatic activity but sprouting is one of the best ways to minimize lectins.

Many individuals who are trying to eat healthy eat very large amounts of unsoaked and unfermented nuts. Many of them also use whole grains which contain some of the highest amounts of lectins. This very often causes major digestive distress and the individuals often have no idea why as they assume their diet is clean.

The trick is to soak, sprout, ferment or boil the lectin containing foods and avoid eating them often. You can throw some almonds in your steamer as you steam broccoli or brussel sprouts and you remove about 50% of the lectins and make the nuts more bioavailable.

You should also soak and germinate nuts and seeds or purchase them pre-soaked and germinated. If you are unfamiliar with this process simply put the nuts, seeds or grains you are wishing to consume in some clean water with a little bit – 1 tbsp of apple cider vinegar and let sit out for 12 hours (overnight). Then wash and rinse the nuts/seeds and they will have removed many of the phytic acids and about 50% or so of the lectins.

Foods to eat
The following foods are recommended for people trying to limit their lectin intake:
• pasture-raised meats
• A2 milk
• cooked sweet potatoes
• leafy, green vegetables
• cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli and Brussels sprouts
• asparagus
• garlic and onion
• celery
• mushrooms
• avocado
• olives or extra virgin olive oil

Using Digestive Enzyme Supplements:
If you are consuming a lot of lectin containing foods and wish to continue then we would recommend taking a good digestive enzyme, like Sanderson Digestive Enzyme Formula, to help minimize the negative effects.

SOURCE: Sandersons NZ

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