Lectins and the Healthy Food Paradox
What if I told you that everything you know about healthy eating is wrong? What if I told you that your “healthy diet” of rice stews, fruits, nuts and legumes, is, in fact, killing you? Crazy, right? After all, all of your well-informed nutritional choices are backed by overwhelming scientific evidence…
Not so, according to Steven Gundry, MD, director and founder of the International Heart & Lung Institute and Center for Restorative Medicine in California. Dr Gundry, a former heart surgeon, has since 2002 been helping patients improve their health through diet.
According to him one of the main causes of inflammation in the body is a diet heavy in lectins. Lectins are carbohydrate-binding proteins that are found in foods like fruits, vegetables, legumes and grains. They help a plant protect itself from predators and can work, for instance, by paralysing the insects that are trying to eat the plant. They are sticky compounds that likely interfere with nutrient absorption or digestive enzymes, thereby exacerbating issues such as leaky gut and autoimmune diseases.
In his book, The Plant Paradox, Dr. Gundry provides a list of foods heavy in lectins. These include:
- wheat (gluten is a lectin)
- grains (especially wholegrains)
- rice when it is not pressure cooked
- beans and lentils when they are not pressure cooked
- eggplants (nightshades)…and more
Avoiding these main culprits is supposed to allow your body a better chance to restore its gut lining, and therefore improve its nutrient absorption.
Though the studies on humans are limited, one such study (https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/abs/10.1161/circ.137.suppl_1.p238) has shown a dramatic improvement in autoimmune conditions in patients who followed a lectin-free diet supplemented with probiotics, prebiotics and polyphenols for 9 months.
“95/102 patients achieved complete resolution of autoimmune markers and inflammatory markers within 9 months. The other 7/102 patients all had reduced markers, but incomplete resolution. 80/102 patients were weaned from all immunosuppressive and/or biologic medications without rebound.”
Despite this over the last couple of years, the lectin-free diet has received a lot of criticism from a variety of nutritional advocates. In my unprofessional opinion (as my own lab rat), that whether or not Dr. Gundry’s recommendations will help you improve your health will largely depend on your individual situation.
On an emotional level, people who have autoimmune diseases, suffer from low self-esteem or unworthiness issues and conflicts with blood relatives (which materialise as the body/blood attacking itself).
I think people who do not struggle with these issues will be little affected by lectins. People who do (and who already have a body that overreacts to any threat), do not need to eat foods that are high in compounds that plants release when they perceive that they are being attacked. It could simply be a matter of exacerbating a condition through resonance.